|by Ashwin Gopinath|
|Published on: Nov 13, 2002|
|Microsoft will invest $400 million (Rs 2,000 crore) in India over the next three years, indicating that the company is more confident about the country's future prospects as a software power than it was at any point of time in the past.
"This is the largest investment by the company, excluding hardware (Xbox, Tablet PC), outside of the US," Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates announced at a press conference here on Tuesday.
Investments will be made in education, industry partnerships, technology innovation and in the expansion of Microsoft's India Development Centre (MIDC) in Hyderabad. Gates, however, did not give a detailed break-up of the investments, but a company spokesperson indicated that a large part of it was likely to go to industry partnerships.
Appreciating India's liberalisation and infrastructure growth in the communications sector, Gates outlined his vision of "the digital decade (2000-09)" and said the country needed to invest heavily in education to emerge as a major player in IT. He said Microsoft wanted to put people at the centre of the elements of the digital world, with India playing a crucial role in it.
"As we enter the digital decade, the opportunity for India to drive innovation is tremendous," Gates said, adding "this presents a unique role for the government to create a vibrant knowledge-based economy that encourages innovation."
He said from about half-a-million high-paying IT jobs in India, there would be million of jobs created over the next few years around, communication and working on collaborative software built around web-enabled services.
On Microsoft's part, he said the company was focused on product localisation to reach out to a wider community. Extending Windows XP and Office support to 11 Indian languages, Gates said both desktop products will soon have a Hindi language interface, followed by Bengali and Malyalam.
Among the significant investments made, Gates announced a $20 million fund for project "Siksha", that will train teachers, develop IT curricula and offer end-to-end software solutions. "Over 80,000 school teachers and around 3.5 million students across the country will be able to benefit from this initiative over the next 3-5 years," Gates said. Microsoft is also planning to set up 10 state-of-the-art Microsoft IT academies in collaboration with state education departments and over 2000 partner-driven school laboratories.
Gates said that he expected employee strength at MIDC to double to around 500, over the next three years, from the existing 200 people. Microsoft is also increasing investment to around $100 million for the centre.