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Dabur’s Spoonful of the Cloud – As sweet as it’s honey!

by tapangarg on January 13, 2011

As an FMCG major, Dabur’s Cloud computing story has been rather interesting. The organization has been a strong user of IT systems for a long time and is a firm believer in IT being an important business enabler. The IT department at Dabur has been instrumental in facilitating the planning, testing, and deployment of  new ideas for the business. Continuing this trend, Dabur has recently ventured into Cloud computing in a unique way. Anil Garg, CIO, Dabur India, tells us more.

Anil takes pride in the organization’s current IT landscape that serves the manufacturing, sales, finance, and procurement functions well with SAP R/3 as the ERP. The company also uses applications for secondary sales tracking, claims management, master data management, media tracking, and employee management. Cloud computing was not on Anil’s roadmap for Dabur. But one introductory session to the benefits of the technology, changed that for him and his organization.

“It was a timely introduction to the space,” says Anil candidly. Dabur was in the process of consolidating email and Microsoft Exchange applications for its entire geographical footprint, which would bring the organization and its wide-spread subsidiaries under the common domain of Dabur.com. This involved auxiliary servers at each location, relevant infrastructure and admin support, backup facilities, leased lines, and firewalls, in a phased operation across the globe.

An introduction to Cloud computing threw up possibilities of leveraging the technology to meet this immediate need. Anil commissioned a Proof of Concept (POC) immediately. “The POC was completed in 15 days and within one and half months, we had 8 locations of Dabur connected on a common platform, at 5% of the cost we would have otherwise incurred,” adds Anil. “And, the conventional solution would have taken us at least a year.”

Customized for optimum leverage

Dabur’s example is unique because the company has a customized design and approach to deploying Exchange on the Cloud. Dabur still retains its main Exchange server in its own Data Center. The international subsidiaries access an auxiliary mail server on the Cloud. This server synchronizes  with Dabur’s main Exchange server at the Data Center.

“The advantages to us are clear – no third-party providers, access through just an internet connection, all locations email IDs are @Dabur.com and share the same address book.” Anil adds further, “With Microsoft Unified Communications, we also have audio and video conferencing – all on a single network. Even the sever on the Cloud is managed by my Data Center administrator, all in one place.” With 350 users on this network, Dabur’s IT has India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Dubai, Egypt, Nigeria, and soon-to-be-integrated Turkey and the US, on the Cloud.

Although his adoption was totally de-risked with no investments, Anil’s different approach stemmed from his apprehensions about unchartered waters. Today however, he describes his Cloud stint as “timely, exciting, and an experience” and says it’s only a matter of time before the organizations realize the futility of running Data Centers. He has plans to move Exchange completely to the Cloud, followed by intranet applications and other Microsoft technologies. “The future belongs to the Cloud and hosted Data Centers. Ideally there will be a mix.”, he says.

The magic lies in the mindset

The biggest bottleneck to the adoption of the Cloud, he feels, is the existing CIO mindset, which has to be slowly chiseled away. “People tend to feel that their might is in controlling the DC. It’s as simple as the trends in personal computing. The PC is giving way to a tablet today, with storage on the Cloud. If you do this for yourself, taking it to the corporate level is easy.” Anil’s simple example elucidates the sea change in computing. Are organizations however, still apprehensive about taking their databases online? “Culturally Dabur as an organization is open to change as long as there is a strong  business case. It is a matter of proving the same. The time will come for others too.”

The road ahead

Very satisfied with his initiation of the Cloud, he acknowledges the speed with which subject matter expertise in the domain is growing. Over the last six months he has found in-depth knowledge in the vendors he works with and praises their ability to provide service support through multiple other trained vendors as well. Confident and ecstatic, he closes with an apt message to his peers, “Most of our fraternity works as CTOs not CIOs. If we free ourselves from infrastructure hassles by using outsourcing and moving to the Cloud, we can truly become business enablers and move from being a CTO to a CIO. This is the opportunity. Go ahead without inhibitions, it works!”

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