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BW Businessworld

‘What You Do Will Be On The Cloud’

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Nearly two years after it launched the Creative Cloud (CC), San Jose, California-based Adobe Systems has refreshed its portfolio. It has launched four new mobile apps — Adobe Sketch, Line, Lightroom and Photoshop Mix — that allow content creation on the go. To add muscle to its offerings, it has joined hands with hardware company Adonit to launch Adobe Ink and Slide—a cloud connected stylus and a drafting ruler. Umang Bedi, managing director, South Asia, Adobe Systems, spoke to BW|Businessworld’s Anup Jayaram on what the new initiatives mean to Adobe. Excerpts:

What’s been the driver to get into the mobile space?
As handheld devices get more powerful, you will see more content creation shifting to the mobile. It needs to get easier and more powerful over time. We are the first to say anything can be created on the mobile. Most of the time, you are consuming content on the mobile. Say, our designer is sitting in a park and a creative idea strikes, he wants to do something with it; he doesn’t want to wait to go back to office and lose that idea. Now, he uses pen and paper. We saw that and are not charging for it. You don’t need to be a CC subscriber to use it, but mobile products will be enhanced because whatever you create will be integrated with the cloud. You can synchronise and enhance it on the desktop. The desktop is not going to be dead soon, but you will see a lot more creation on the mobile.

You are mainly on the iOS platform and not on Android. Why?
Yes, in India, it seems counterintuitive, since Android is very popular. But even in India, over half of our creative tool users create content on Mac and iOS because it is much easier. We are contemplating moving to Android as well in the future. But right now, iOS seems the right thing as customers are using it as a preferred platform.

Is Adobe getting into hardware with the Ink and Slide?
Adobe will never be a hardware company. Software is at the core of what we do, and we will always innovate in that area. We keep getting feedback that customers wanted the mobile platform to be part of the creation process. There is a lot of ideation in creative and the final product still needs powerful desktop elements. And that’s how we introduced this mobile platform. When we introduced it, we realised users found it hard to use the free hand. So, we partnered with Adonit — a hardware manufacturer — which shares the same vision in solving problems. We have connected and extended it with the creative cloud.  

So is there an interplay?     
The interplay really comes in the connection process, or in the creation process. All I can say is that we will never go and manufacture a tablet tomorrow. So, if you look at Adobe Ink, it can do a lot more. It is a paintbrush, eraser, drawing charcoal pencil. We have included different paintbrushes. That’s because users want a finer, controlled way of doing it.

What are the big achievements for Adobe from this move?
We see three directions in India. First, we’re getting down into the enterprise. We have many enterprise customers who have converted to CC, but others are still on old versions, which we do not support anymore. They want us to maintain the cost of ownership the same or lower. With the CC, the ownership cost is going to come down when you take a three to five year view of the market. The focus is to convert all enterprise customers to CC. We have shut down our perpetual licensing business. You can’t buy perpetual Photoshop anymore. So, at Rs 499 a month, the photography plan is attractive for not just photographers, but for people who want to learn and use this technology. The second area relates to students and teachers. In a report that we have done, 70 per cent of educators in India believe creativity should be imbibed in the learning process. As for the last area, we now want to grow on a 100 per cent basis, year-on-year, the small and mid-sized businesses (SMB) segment. We made a lot of penetration in this segment via channel partners. India is today the fifth-largest country in terms of our SMB market penetration.

On digital marketing, we are working with 15,000 brands globally. We would be growing this business 300 per cent this year, and we are on track to make that happen by the year-end. This is a pretty bold move because we came up from a large base last year, but that is a business we see growing exponentially.

So what’s the way forward now?
The way forward is exponential growth. India is one of the biggest untapped markets for us. Whichever segment you look at... the SMB segment is exploding, large enterprises are growing with work, and with 4G services in the future, the connectivity problem will get solved. I think we have solved the device problem, given that smartphones are much cheaper today. The number of smartphones coming to India is huge, and with connectivity solved, the creative cloud works beautifully.

By providing software at a reasonable monthly rate, can you reduce piracy?

Since software is available at a reasonable monthly rate, the market that relies on pirated versions can switch. Education is a growth area — both government and private. We partnered with Gujarat and Rajasthan and are working with four to five other states on education. We have joined hands with private institutions too. 

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 25-08-2014)