Feature Story

Wim Elfrink Discusses Globalization and the Decision by Cisco Systems Inc to Focus on India

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July 12, 2007

Mention 'globalization' and it is hard not to think about India.

The country has become a leading example of how a nation can build sustainable growth with trading partners around the world. Indian companies move and compete on the international stage and foreign investors are keen to exploit the opportunities that India has to offer.

Cisco Systems, Inc, is among those banking heavily on India, having selected it as the site for the first Cisco® Globalization Center because of the country's highly skilled workforce, supportive government, innovative customers and globally-competitive trading partners.

Wim Elfrink, Chief Globalization Officer at Cisco, spoke to News@Cisco from his Bangalore, India base on globalization in general and why it is so important for the company.

What is the attraction of India for major multinational companies?

Wim Elfrink: India is playing an increasingly important role in the global economy, buoyed by the country's impressive economic growth, skilled manpower and tremendous business opportunities.

It is emerging as a major consumer market, a strategic resource base for companies, and it has the ability to collaborate for mutual success, which are imperative in the era of globalization.

India is already a strategic region for international companies and my belief is that this trend will grow. Along with other countries in the region, it is reaching an inflexion point which has three components.

The first is GDP growth. Emerging countries are expected to produce more than 50 percent of future gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the world, which is very different from the last 100 years when developed countries have produced about 70 percent of the world's GDP.

The second is innovation, which is moving very quickly because there is no installed base here.

And the third component is talent, which we will foster through initiatives such as the Cisco Networking Academy program, based on a deep appreciation of the benefits of studying subjects such as engineering.

What is the role of the Globalization Centre and what motivated Cisco to locate its 'second headquarters' in India?

Wim Elfrink: The Globalization Center in India will enable Cisco to have a significant presence in a region with high growth potential.

The majority of the company's primary business functions, including sales, finance, human resources, marketing, engineering and customer support, will be represented in India as well as in the United States.

Through the Globalization Center East, Cisco will be able to create new ways to deliver information, products and services.

Our globalization strategy is to deliver an enhanced customer experience on a 24-hour basis, enabled by our Internet-based business model and a suite of collaborative products such as TelePresence that are making physical location irrelevant.

While it does not exactly represent a second headquarters for Cisco, the Center is akin to the major headquarter-like capability sites we maintain outside San Jose in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the Research Triangle Park area in Raleigh, NC.

What does your title signify, how does it reflect the growing importance of India for companies such as Cisco, and how does the growing importance of India connect to Cisco's globalization strategy?

Wim Elfrink: The future of our industry will be based on a company's ability to support customers on a global basis.

We are at the edge of a market transition and globalization is in effect about our ability to connect the dots, uniting the right people at the right moment at the right place at the right time. Cisco is excellent at capturing market transitions and sees India as a big opportunity.

The country is more vibrant and adventurous in its pursuit of excellence than ever before, and our decision to locate our Globalization Center East here definitely highlights the country's growing importance in the world.

As Chief Globalization Officer, I am responsible for implementing and overseeing a USD$1.1 billion investment in India, executing on the growth strategy for Cisco globally.

Does your globalization strategy also include acquisitions in India?

Wim Elfrink: Typically, Cisco uses acquisitions to move into new markets and add new capabilities to our vision for networking.

We are committed to investing in innovation in India and have allocated a fund for venture capital investments in high-growth, early stage companies in the country.

In the last year, Cisco has invested a total of $5 million in Indiagames, India's number one mobile and online games company, and Bharti Telesoft, which provides value-added software products and services to wireless and wire-line operators worldwide.

Will we be seeing other top Cisco executives in Bangalore and other places in India to manage your global activities?

Wim Elfrink: As part of our globalization strategy, we would expect in the next two to three years that every function in the company will have at least 20 percent of its top executives in Bangalore, India.