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IBM woos Indian clients to buy Watson supercomputer

Posted: 16 Jul 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Watson? supercomputer? artificial intelligence? telecom?

IBM is flexing its muscles to push the Watson supercomputers to its top clients in India, a move to make it into a multi-billion-dollar business amidst the company's diminishing market share in the country, The Economic Times reported.

According to the paper's unnamed sources, IBM chief Virginia M. Rometty was in India this week and aggressively pitched the Watson artificial-intelligence system to customers such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone. This move comes at a time when the New York-based company is struggling to save its $1-billion outsourcing contract with Vodafone, which is set to expire in June 2016.

The two companies have started talks for a contract, and in a few weeks, Vodafone will be accepting proposals from other technology companies including Tech Mahindra and Tata Consultancy Services, sources said.

Rometty spoke at IBM's THINK Forum to speak to the company's top clients in the hopes of striking more deals with telecom customers, which contributed nearly $1 billion of annual business to IBM India in the last couple of years.

An information officer of one of IBM's Indian customers said that the company is working hard to commercialise Watson in the country and that the price points are becoming more attractive as years go by.

Since its launch as a commercial business 18 months ago, Rometty claimed that the Watson supercomputer had scaled up. The artificial-intelligence system looks at and learns from information, works in natural languages, and deals in the grey area. In addition, about 5,000 companies, 100 universities and thousands of developers around the world are using Watson.

Dwindling revenues

IBM renewed its outsourcing contract with Bharti Airtel in April 2014, but its share of revenues declined since then. The U.S. giant used to earn $250 million to $300 million from Airtel prior to its renewal. Currently it earns $150 million to $200 million. This is the reason why IBM is using all its might to save its remaining outsourcing deals from telecom companies in India such as Idea Cellular and Vodaphone.

This scenario has prompted other competing technology firms from India and all over the globe to snag a share from IBM's existing Indian accounts. They are making it doubly difficult for IBM to renew its contract with Vodaphone, according to unidentified executives from rival firms interviewed by The Economic Times.

Documents filed with the Registrar of Companies reveal that IBM currently earns approximately $3 billion in annual revenues from India. The paper's sources claim that IBM's India business remain strong this year due to large technology contracts with the government that had been stalled earlier, but were being processed now by the present BJP government.

- Stephen Padilla
??EE Times Asia

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