June - 2004 issue > Leadership
KETAN SAMPATH: President, Intel India
Harish Revanna
Monday, May 31, 2004
For some enterprises, cost arbitrage is a definition of their India strategy. Intel has differed. For one, it has set up India to be a full-fledged profit center, delivering mission-critical products from scratch. And then it views India itself as one of its largest market, and is casting plans for capitalizing the growing economy. How has it performed? Ketan Sampath explains.

“The kind of work we are doing is leading edge not just in India but anywhere else on the planet,” says Ketan Sampath, President, Intel India, commenting on the chip giant’s charter for India. An interesting project close to his heart is Intel’s Social Investment, empowering over 20,000 government-run schools with computers, thereby turning out close to a million PC-savvy kids. “Leadership is all about commitment and healthy interaction with your clients,” says the Intel India president, during an interview at Intel facilities in Santa Clara, CA.

Bombay Beginnings
Born in Bombay, Ketan Sampath graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology with a degree in Electrical Engineering and followed it up with an M.S. in Computer Science from Syracuse University. “And since then, Intel has been the only company I have worked for,” says the India head, currently with a score years at the company. Sampath began in Intel in1984, designing silicon debug hooks and in-circuit emulators for processors. Later on he worked in the Intel’s profitable embedded systems and his experience in Europe while working on product line was—as he calls it “trial by fire by the customers.” From there his next milestone was Enterprise and E-business solutions that he headed in Asia. A champion for setting up India operations, he was one of the early principals in Intel’s India charter, finally moving to Bangalore in 2003 to head the India operations.

Intel India’s Initiatives
Sampath says, “India’s emerging consumer market is a key to Intel’s high-growth plans. India holds the third place in Intel’s revenue chart for fastest growing consumer market in the world.” Sampath’s charter for India is based on four key elements.

Firstly, India’s tier 3 and tier 4 cities—which are growing at a faster clip than the metros—generate a large consumer market, where technology plays a key role and hence Intel’s interest. Intel has expanded its presence by some innovative, localized consumer-facing actions. The “PC Parties” is one such program, where a bus travels around the country and pitches stops at various towns, inviting the locals to get closer to a PC and explore its possibilities. “The response has been fabulous,” says Sampath.

Secondly, India’s economy boom is more seen than felt. And this is a clear innuendo for pervasive use of computing communications for growth in terms of development; technology, business and national prosperity, so Intel’s avenues are wide open. “India’s economy has to emerge as a truly knowledge-based economy—the benefits have to be beyond software exports, and Intel plans to be the underpinning of this economy uplift,” says Sampath. His next strategy dealt with the business enterprises, “as more sectors opens up to competition there is a business imperative to invest more,” says Sampath, “insurance companies are projecting a major growth in the near future, so it’s a prospective gain investing in them.”

“Intel’s role is to bring the solution stacks that the industry needs and have it optimized and available on the Intel architecture program,” says Sampath, and the chip giant has been quick to respond to the market needs.
Thirdly, Intel’s wants to run a world-class development center in India. “Intel has a had an international footprints in distributed development for a long time,” says Sampath, “and India is one such development center where we develop leading edge next-generation products. Our development will be consumed by Intel worldwide and also by next level markets directly. We are here for the long-term.”

Lastly, says Sampath, Intel wants to invest in India, certainly for profit, and for the long term. “We want to increase our hold here. Product development through socialistic move is our way of approach,” explains Sampath. Intel’s “teach to teachers,” is a unique program to educate teachers about teaching better with computers, expanding a base that would eventually create educated demand for computing.

World-class Culture
Intel India operates in a whirlpool of cultures and its head Sampath’s plans is to bring in the Intel culture, as he says “ Intel has a very strong culture and all we have to do is establish this culture with a good leadership team.” Intel, explains Sampath, attracts talent and manages to retain it by sufficient challenge, transfer of ownership, and the sense of belonging to a large, truly global company. “The only competition we in Intel have is the newer generation,” says Sampath.
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