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'We Are Super Excited And Bullish About India': Snowflake CIO & CDO

In the next five years, our headcount could be over 1,000 in Pune, says Sunny Bedi

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Sunny Bedi, CIO & CDO, Snowflake

During Sunny Bedi's (Snowflake CIO and CDO) recent visit to India, BW Businessworld's Rohit Chintapali had the chance to speak with the executive. They discussed about Bedi's journey at Snowflake as its new CIO and CDO just as the pandemic struck in 2020 and how India is a huge market for his company. Read on for excerpts from the interview.    

Sunny, you joined Snowflake just before the pandemic and the digital transformation accelerated soon after. How has your journey been so far?

Soon after I joined Snowflake in January 2020, Covid took over. We had to quickly adopt our processes and systems to make sure that we gave employees an amazing experience in a remote work environment. Snowflake was a team of 1,500 people at that point. Since then, we have hired 3,500 more. All this while, we have given our employees an amazing user experience ensuring that they are highly productive and made sure that the sales team can go and sell the product in a highly collaborative environment.

Now, we have opened up our offices and are going to the office three days a week but there's still a high degree of demand for hybrid model. So, we make sure that we still give the same user experience that we delivered during Covid.

As the CDO, you have helped Snowflake tap into the power of data. Is there any specific difference between how data would be adopted in the West versus India?

The use cases are similar. Let’s take the example of India. Talent is in high demand in India and many companies are hiring in the country. Similar to the West, India has the same use case where not everything is back to office. Employees need some flexibility to work for a couple of days from home, and couple of days from the office - in both ecosystems. So, the same use cases are applicable to Indian companies and West. 

I have had the opportunity to speak with a lot of customers here and shared such use cases. They are super excited about that. 

On the external side of things, I met one of the largest insurance companies yesterday. Their use cases are more around customer-360 to understand who the customer is and not just the onboarding customers. In such a scenario, the data from many sources needs to be brought together in a manner that helps you look at that customer and give the sales and support team a full visibility of the customer so that you are delivering the most incredible user experience. More importantly, it is important to give them a very personalised experience that might be unique to their business needs.

Did this meeting result in a deal win?

I hope so. They are going to do a POC with us. We have given them multiple ideas on how to take advantage of data by demonstrating a few examples of how we have done things internally. They have similar challenges, business needs and areas they want to focus on. It's just that our data is a little different from what they collect and how they want to correlate it. But we sure hope to win them as a customer.

Digital transformation is a constant journey. How should firms approach it?

There's definitely an aspect of technical debt that older companies have today. If you are a 10-25-year-old company or even older, you have a technical debt that you have to modernise. In such cases, there is a dire need for modernising and grandfathering older workloads into the modern data cloud platform or modern cloud platform. But anything new that you are buying, you need to make sure that you don't put that into the legacy systems. 

There are two paths. The first path is choosing a platform like Snowflake and thinking of data – just like how you think of security when you design a new workload. You have to think of data right from the get go and ensure that the data for a new workload that you are trying to automate is in the cloud. This will ensure that you don't bleed a problem further. And then you need to have a roadmap on how do you modernise your existing old workloads and create a momentum that will start migrating them into the future. 

The new stuff has to be done immediately and the older stuff could have a slower roadmap depending upon the criticality of the data and the criticality of the workload.

Could you tell us about your hiring plans in India?

Interestingly, I hired my first employee in Pune in March of 2020. And I had joined Snowflake in January. My intention with this was that I would have a global IT security and data team, and 50 per cent of my headcount had to be from outside the US. Today, we have over 300 people in Pune and we are doing a lot of operations out of this office. We are going to continue to grow this office. In the next five years, our headcount could be over 1,000 in Pune. We are super excited and bullish about India. There is an amazing talent pool here.