Data is currently exploding on a global scale

Bimal Khandelwal, CFO, STT GDC India

The demand for data centres has become quite strong and it keeps rising, as the data centres sector requires the right talent with the necessary skill sets to meet enormous expansion. To understand the presence of data centres across the sector, Srajan Agarwal of Elets News Network (ENN) interacted with Bimal Khandelwal, CFO, STT GDC India.

Briefly tell us about ST Telemedia as a DC company, from its genesis to growth?

With the most prominent data centre presence in the country since its establishment in 2004, STT GDC India has been a market-leading co-location service provider. It is a joint venture between the data centre division of TATA Communication in India and Singapore’s ST Telemedia Global Data Centre, (with majority ownership). STT GDC India, which is located across nine different cities (Delhi, Noida, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata), is a market leader and pioneer in the Indian data centre industry. The company with more than 33% of the Indian revenue market handles the largest pan-Indian data centre floor area and IT load. We supply more than 200 MW of IT load via 21 carrier-neutral facilities with carrier-dense interconnections across nine significant locations and hold a total floor area of 3.8 Mn Sq. Ft.

We are the preferred data centre service provider for international clients, and we provide services that are of the highest calibre possible and address infrastructure problems. We are the only operator allowing customers to choose sites in important areas while reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO). As a company, we have been expanding massively and we also signed an MoU last year with the Tamil Nadu and UP governments, which helped in generating employment opportunities for several skilled and unskilled talents in the respective states. Today, as part of our sustainability initiatives, STT GDC India now uses 36% of the energy for all its facilities, making it one of the largest users of renewable sources among Indian data centre operators. Moreover, our Experience Centre’s debut as a component of the Centre for Skill Development, which is situated at the STT GDC Bengaluru location, has been one of the most significant accomplishments in terms of our community development projects. It is the organization’s flagship CSR project and aims to bridge the skills gap by upskilling industry talent and offering career pathways for local students.

What is the state of DC capacity requirement in India?

According to a report by CRISIL, India’s data centre capacity is expected to double by fiscal 2025, rising from 870 MW in the most recent fiscal year to 1,700-1,800 MW. Today, in India, Data centres are developing into a desirable asset class for infrastructure and the demand for DCs in the country is primarily being driven by the adoption of new technologies (IoT, 5G, etc.), In addition, the favourable regulatory support, rapidly growing cloud computing, rising internet penetration, and government initiatives on the digital economy are further boosting demand for data and storage capacities. Therefore, understanding the potential for the demand for DC capacity in the nation, we have strengthened our footprint in the city with 21 facilities spanning across 9 states, and we look forward to growing our presence in more markets for ushering in the next wave of growth to power the data centre economy.

What initiatives are you taking to address the existing skill gap in the industry related to data centre projects?

Data is currently exploding on a global scale and due to it, the demand for data centres has also become quite strong and keeps rising. Although demand for data centres is expected to soar, the sector requires the right talent with the necessary skill sets if it is to meet the enormous expansion. Hence, we as a socially responsible company, are always focused on raising the bar to empower and upskill the industry talent. Aligning with our goal to nurture young talents, we have our partnership initiative with Don Bosco Tech Society (DB Tech) and Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF), which are two leading institutes in Bengaluru. In 2021, we unveiled an Experience Centre for data centre skill development in the city to upskill and enhance youth employability in India wherein we shortlist 60 students yearly from each institute for the training program combining classroom with experiential learning at the Centre.

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We trained around 150 students at our 11,000 sq. ft. area housed in the STT Bengaluru DC 3 facility that was dedicated to training & development. We provided these students with a live simulation experience and allowed them to derive valuable hands-on experience with relevant equipment. An overall comprehensive curriculum was offered to the students that provided them with a holistic learning experience. It helped them to build essential skills for a career in the data centre industry and suitable opportunities in other sectors as well, such as commercial retail spaces, on-premises IT Infrastructure management across enterprises and high-end facilities management. The purpose of this Experience Centre at our Centre of Excellence is to provide a platform for interested candidates to up-skill in alignment with industry requirements complete with practical learning opportunities, thereby enabling them to increase their employability quotient

As Cloud is becoming more relevant for organizations owing to their digital journey, what is the role of ST Telemedia in this situation in the BFSI sector?

Players in the BFSI, telco and e-commerce industries are establishing their DCs and DRs in India to follow national data regulatory standards. STT GDC India has a well-diversified customer base that includes large Indian and international corporations, the government, BFSI firms, and actors in the Internet economy like e-commerce, content, OTT, gaming, cloud service providers, and even SMEs. In addition to the top cloud service providers, we also host many SaaS providers, systems integrators, and managed service providers who have built their services on our colocation platforms. An important result of the lockdown was that businesses with captive server rooms that were having trouble maintaining their setups during this time moved to hybrid services, with some applications running on the public cloud and others with large databases and interdependencies running on private clouds hosted by specialised third-party data centre service providers like us. Overall, we serve more than 1000 customers across these segments. Due to the non-disclosure agreement that STT GDC India signs with clients, we can’t disclose specific names. However, some insights on the customers are as follows:

Our data centre, STT Bengaluru DC 3, was inaugurated in 2019 and a leading BFSI player is the anchor customer.

STT Mumbai DC 3 in BKC is one of the most preferred BFSI data centres in India. The present mix of banks, insurance and other financial organizations creates a desirable network externality for the BFSI segment. The presence of a leading cloud service provider enables on-demand, direct connectivity for these customers.

What are your growth plans for 2022 and beyond?

STT GDC India aspires to continue being a thought leader in the sector by applying its powerful spirit and energising outlook to its future agenda. We are doing this to make sustainability a central element of their corporate objectives. Building on the momentum of growth in 2021, we have set forth ambitious plans to double our capacity every three to four years for the following ten years. We have already begun construction of new Greenfield facilities and expansions in Noida, Pune, and Chennai, and further planning projects in Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and other cities.

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As one of the leading and most experienced data centre players in India, our commitment sets a strategy course that will increase capacities while also enhancing performance, dependability, data security, and sustainability in our data centre footprints across the nation. We have grown much faster than the market’s rate of expansion over the last few years, surpassing it to take the lead. We will continue to build on our existing customer base while maintaining our focus on having the ideal mix of retail and wholesale clients. In addition to the nine places where we already have a presence, we are further evaluating expanding in Tier 2 cities to meet the increasing demand from users for Edge sites.

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