The US tech giant Microsoft Corporation has been expanding its presence in Nepal in recent years. The Redmond, Washington-based company has been active in providing a number of software and internet services support programmes as well as cyber security assistance to several government and private sector institutions and is also engaged in promoting tech entrepreneurship and IT education in the country. Sook Hoon Cheah, president of Microsoft, Southeast Asia and New Markets, was recently in Kathmandu for an official visit.
Sook Hoon, who has been with Microsoft for the last 22 years, is in the post since July 2018. Her responsibilities include accelerating customer digital transformation in the region and scaling the partner ecosystem across Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos. In an interview with New Business Age, Cheah talked about Microsoft’s market, strategy and expansion plans in Nepal. Excerpts:
What services do you offer here in Nepal?
At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organisation to achieve more. So, the services that we offer in Nepal are similar to the services that we provide in any other country, which includes our enterprise-grade infrastructure platform, Azure. We are additionally offering Microsoft 365, our productivity cloud technology and Microsoft Dynamic 365, our business application. We want to ensure every student, startup, entrepreneur, business owner, government and association will be able to focus on their business leveraging our world-class infrastructure to deliver the value back to the citizens, the end customers and the community alike. Currently, we have 95 percent of Fortune 500 customers already on our Azure cloud. We believe that organisations and individuals here in Nepal will be able to utilise our services right away.
How is the market for Microsoft growing in Nepal?
The sky is the limit in terms of Microsoft’s market expansion plan in Nepal. We believe that companies that can drive services and serve as value differentiators are going to excel, and they will also grow as fast as the world wants to take them. It is not just limited to the 29 million citizens of Nepal; it is cross-geographic. With the cloud technology, you can serve your neighbouring countries and so forth. So we should focus on growth not just within a local GDP perspective, but we must also think of employment and growth in the quality of services. Microsoft is very excited to do business in Nepal, and that’s the reason we have been travelling to Nepal and have been here for a long time now.
Can you tell us how Microsoft has been collaborating with the government of Nepal?
We have a long history of collaborating with key government agencies on different areas. Our focus of partnership with the government has been policy consultation, cyber security awareness and technology consultation. We want to help Nepal’s government to achieve more. We want to get people, youths and existing businesses ready for the digital transformation. Cloud technology is so progressive now with mobility, and we actually have been working with the government of Nepal to share customer wins and to share in technological philanthropy activities.
In terms of technology knowledge transfer, what has Microsoft done here in Nepal?
Microsoft has been partnering with different communities, local training partners and Universities to transfer our wealth of knowledge. We do this through various programmes such as Microsoft Learn and Microsoft Education.
A growing number of youths are seeking a career in the IT sector here in Nepal, how has Microsoft been collaborating with them on digital literacy?
The World Economic Forum forecasts that around 65 percent of children starting their education today will ultimately end up working in new job types that do not currently exist. The good news is that a recent Microsoft survey found that 87 percent of educational leaders in Asia acknowledge that their institutions need to embrace the digital world. The bad news is that only 23 percent have a full digital strategy in place right now. In order to help educators, parents and students to transform education and impart students with future-ready skills, Microsoft conducts many programmes. The Hour of Code programme is one such example, and I was privileged to take part in it last week.
Also, Nepali students have risen to the global landscape at the Imagine Cup. Imagine Cup is a global competition that empowers the next generation of computer science students to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications that shape how we live, work and play. Every year, tens of thousands of students from across the globe compete for cash, travel and prizes and for the honour of taking home the Imagine Cup.
Two teams from Nepal: Echo Innovators and Sochware have won regional competitions and have showcased their talent at the global competition. This clearly shows how promising the Nepali youth can be.
How is Microsoft giving back to the country?
We give back to the Nepali people in many ways. During my visit this week, I met Nepali students and took part in a Hour of Code activity. I hope this encouraged these young kids to understand the importance of acquiring coding skills and building a knack for coding to be future-ready.
In 2015, when this beautiful nation faced a very tragic earthquake, we did our best to help the nation and its people by partnering with the UN.
Microsoft has delivered 200 educational software courses to 430 students free of cost in Nepal. Additionally, we are providing Microsoft 365 software free to 167 schools. We have been organising the Imagine Cup competition to promote startup culture in Nepal. We have donated USD 142,955 worth of Microsoft 365 and Azure software in total. We donated USD 120,395 worth of the software to 56 various non-profit organisations and USD 22,560 worth of Azure in Nepal.
Does Microsoft plan to set up a legal office in Nepal soon?
Microsoft is a partner-led company. Our partner ecosystem around the globe is empowering customers, governments and individuals of every scale by supporting their digital transformation journeys. It’s the same for Nepal. We have a strong local partner ecosystem led by Deependra Bajracharya, business development manager - Nepal/Bhutan/Laos, and our representative in Nepal. They are already working with the government, business leaders and developers to empower, educate, and help them achieve business objectives.
Recently, Microsoft and Sony announced a collaboration that took many by surprise. What is the main objective of this partnership?
Microsoft is a partner-based company and aims to share its data and cloud service with a maximum number of individuals, organisations and companies, empowering all to achieve more. The collaboration of Microsoft with Sony is part of the company’s plan to achieve its ambition and goal of circulating the services to a maximum number of users around the world. Microsoft aims to build a quality cloud gaming technology in partnership with Sony to provide an exceptional cloud gaming platform for gamers around the globe.