What we need is precision regulation to secure data: IBM's Ginni Rometty

India is a microcosm of


‘s global operations and a market that is witnessing adoption in newer technologies such as AI and blockchain. India is a talent hub for the company and some of its best talent globally is from the country. “We have to remember that we’re in 170 countries and that there is an old saying that ideas know no borders,” IBM CEO

Ginni Rometty

told ET in an interview.

Do you think India is moving in the right direction with its data protection policies?

They have the opportunity to move in the right direction. India is at a crossroads and its decision will have a large impact on its role in a global economy. I’m sure they’ll make the right decision.

Consumer internet companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp also have B2B businesses. How do you distinguish their data?

They have got to be clear about what applications they are running for what kind of population.We have to separate those things. If I am an enterprise buying something, I have to insist on that (separation)… We are very clear on the three principles we live by: these new technologies ought to augment what we do; the second principle is that the data and its insights belong to the owner. We say that I was doing the work for you, but everything belongs to you and I live by that. And the third one is all these have to be explainable to you and free of bias. So those are three principles: purpose, ownership and explainability.

I have been a strong advocate of precision regulation. It is kind of precision medicine; you say to the doctor I want to treat my sour arm, (but) don’t kill my body. It is the same analogy. We have to be careful on regulation of data here. We could unintentionally kill the digital economy, when we are trying to address consumer privacy issue. Therefore, there should be liability for illegal information, for illegal business .

There should be statement about consumer data, about who owns, about what data you have, can it be deleted? That should be the regulation. And it should be explainable so I think precision regulation is what’s required here. In Europe with GDPR ,they understand this because for years they had to work hard to have a single digital market because of the borders.

Your investments in blockchain and AI in India?

They’ve got some very interesting blockchain work here in India. What I think blockchain will do is take inefficiency out of the supply chains. In India, I think there’s a great opportunity to remove bureaucracy, assuming you want to remove it by the way. Every client I’m meeting with on this trip has at least a proof of concept.

How big is your India business?

This is the only place that has got a microcosm of everything. I mean it is the only country that’s got research, it’s got development, it’s got global outsourcing and it’s got a domestic market. I do internal functions for IBM from here. So this is like a mini IBM and it’s the only country like that. The only one.

Are clients ready to accept chapter two of cloud & AI?

Without a doubt. This is all they can get out of it. To me, chapter two is tailor-made for IBM.

Will there be a cultural challenge with integration of Red Hat. It’s more open whereas IBM is bureaucratic.

Not at all. Who do you think the father of Linux is, it’s IBM. Twenty years ago, IBM put a billion dollars to create the Linux Foundation. We are the number one contributor in almost all the top open-source projects out there. So that is really a misconception about IBM. So actually, there is no real culture issue. I’ve got thousands of programmers that do nothing but open source; whenever we can build on open source we build an open source.

I feel our teams understand very well what to do with Red Hat. In fact I don’t even call it an integration. It’s a synergy because they’ve got to be able to work with competitors. They’ve got to maintain all the open- source standards. And if anybody knows about culture it’s me. I’m the one that did PwC acquisition. And to this day, every senior leader is still here, 17 years later.

When will IBM be ranked with companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook?

I view these guys mostly as consumer companies. I am an enterprise company. My business model won’t compete with others. If I’ve learned anything, its to know what we are. We are the ones that do the heavy- lifting mission critical work. Like processing bank transactions in India and also managing over 50% of tele transactions. That’s us. So it’s a different business.

Comparison was more in terms of market cap?

I would like a larger market cap. We’re working on that. Our job now is to consistently perform. It will certainly help if the dollar wouldn’t keep strengthening like this. We are the most international company and only 30% of our revenues is from the United States.

India IT companies say the US technology companies influenced US governments to put visa restrictions. Your take…

We’ve been a big supporter of open immigration. We are in 170 countries and that there is an old saying that ideas know no borders. My head of cloud and analytics was born in India. We’ve got some great colleagues on both sides of the ocean and we really do believe that we need a good immigration policy.

How do you rate India in the order of comparative scale with other large emerging markets. I mean, has it become easier for you to work in India now compared to four to five years ago?

In my last meeting with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi I did tell him it has become easier. That’s a fact. There are a number of things they have been trying to streamline. I believe there’s much more that can be done. But I’ve definitely seen progress and reported that in certain areas to him. The amount of time things take to get done and the consistency of a position because businesses want certainty of things… those would be two areas that need to be focussed on and those are well known .


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March 12, 2019 at 09:57PM