AWS cloud services are driving India’s startup boom

Illustration for representation only | Photo credit: Reuters

Over the past five years, the number of registered startups in India has grown from 452 in 2016 to 84,012, according to figures presented in Parliament this week. While they span a range of industries from financial technology, gaming and healthcare technology, several are based in the cloud – the servers and data storage are accessible via the internet – and data storage companies offer a range of incentives to attract and keep them on their platforms.

AWS, or Amazon Web Services, one of India’s largest providers of cloud-based services, has provided startup credits that allow aspiring startups to use a range of services from computing, storage and hosting for free.

“If you’re a college student, you get $1,000 worth of credits (approx. ₹ 82,600) and can immediately get started with your idea, and as you scale, you get $5,000 worth of credits (over 4 lakh) or $10,000 (8.26 lakh) all on the way to $100,000 (INR 82 lakh). Since 2020, worldwide we have given credits worth USD 2 billion (more than INR 16,500 million). And I don’t have exact numbers, but a significant portion of them are in India. As some of these companies matured, there were different levels of support offered,” said Kumara Raghavan, Head – AWS Startups India, Amazon Internet Services Private Limited.

Kumara Raghavan, Head, Startups, Amazon Web Services.

Kumara Raghavan, Head, Startups, Amazon Web Services. | Photo credit: Special Arrangement

More innovation

AWS has helped “compress” the lifecycle of a startup, allowing them to be more innovative. “Cloud services mean they can simulate experiments on the cloud, run tests, fail, learn from it,” said Mr. Raghavan.

India has the world’s third largest startup ecosystem and is therefore one of the largest markets for such cloud services. Some of the companies supported by AWS included: HealthifyME, which developed an app called ‘Vaccinate Me’, which enabled feature phones to book close to 50 million vaccination appointments; Fittr, which helps track body vitals and meet fitness goals; Credit Vidya, which enables workers who have never used a bank account to ‘digitize’ their wages;, which works on genomics, relied on the AWS system to store data from blood samples in the cloud in places with limited internet connectivity. AWS also powered the Ayushman Bharat Digital mission as well as the Cowin system for COVID-19 vaccinations, Mr. Raghavan.

India’s cloud computing market was expected to grow by 28.1% during the forecast period till 2027. “The high concentration and increasing number of SMEs in India, which are rapidly shifting to cloud computing, is emerging as the key driving factor for market. Furthermore, growing investment in the construction of cloud data centers is expected to boost the Indian cloud computing market,” according to a report by Blueweave Consulting, a market research firm.

Extensive training

While Bengaluru remains the country’s startup capital, AWS is increasingly connecting with startups located in cities outside the metropolitan centers of Delhi and Mumbai. AWS had several programs underway to train even those with minimal training in cloud computing skills. Through almost 500 free courses and 11 certifications, the company has so far trained almost three million across the country. The company worked with 28 educational institutions to include AWS in their course curriculum, Mr. Raghavan.

Betting on the growing demand for cloud services, AWS launched its second data cluster region in Hyderabad, which involved an investment of $4.4 billion (approximately INR 36,300 crore) by 2030. This would make 48,000 jobs available across a range of services from the new infrastructure and its services. The first such region was in Mumbai.

“How we design such infrastructure is to locate them in different seismic zones. Each region has three ‘availability zones’. This is so that if there are ever natural disasters, backup storage is always available. However, the centers are also designed in such a way , that they are not too far and there is minimal latency (or delay) so that users spread across the country can access their applications seamlessly. The exact locations of these zones have not been disclosed,” said Mr. Raghavan.

(The author hosted AWS at Re:Invent, a technology conference, in Las Vegas, USA.)

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