The author talked to Kerrie Ann Turner, country manager (India) Symantec, and Lyn Tran, regional product manager, security and assistance business unit, Symantec Asia-Pacific.
Symantec, the company well known for its Norton utilities, is setting up an Indian subsidiary. The subsidiary is expected to be operational by September 1999. Until now Symantec has sold its products through Godrej Pacific Technology Ltd. According to Kerrie Ann Turner, country manager (India) Symantec, Symantec has chosen to focus on utilities, security solutions and productivity solutions. Incidentally, Peter Norton, whose name lends greater familiarity to the company's products, spends more time on his personal pursuits nowadays but remains the guiding force behind the company.
domain-B: So far Symantec's presence in India has been through its distributor Godrej Pacific Technology Ltd, or GPTL. Why set up an Indian subsidiary now? What will be Godrej Pacific's role now?
Turner: This follows from a definite strategy. We were looking for a nationwide distributor for our products, and Godrej Pacific fits in well with its wide network. As part of our larger plans for the region (Asia Pacific), we are focusing on the markets in China and India, which are booming. That is the reason behind the larger presence in the form of our local office. Godrej Pacific will remain our distributor, and its network will add to our strength.
domain-B: What are your plans for the Indian market? How do you see the Indian market shaping up? Can you tell us something about Symantec's commitments in the country?
Turner: Now that we have planned to enter the market, we are going to be focusing on the OEM (original equipment manufacturers), SOHO (small office home office) and corporate sectors. We see Network Associates (of McAfee fame) as the major competitor for our utility products, especially in anti-virus applications.
We have seen that the communications infrastructure in India is improving and the PC user base is also growing. Now the corporate and SOHO segments are significant and key to the market.
Tran: The PC user has access to better technology now and better productivity tools, and the Internet has brought information to the market. Now that private ISPs are coming into the Indian market, we see some exciting changes happening here. It is going to get better with cable internet and broadband. Internet will be key to our market growth.
Turner: As for our commitments, like I said, India and China are our key markets, which is why we have chosen to enter the Indian market with our own office in Mumbai. While it may be possible to draw parallels between the two markets, there are certain key differences. In India, there is growing awareness of the importance of infotech and a fair bit of openness in the government level. In China the bureaucracy still has a role to play, whereas the Indians have got things moving.
Just consider this, India is the second largest software exporter in the world. That alone explains how important a market it is.
domain-B: What are the products that you see making a resounding mark in the Indian market, that the Indian user should watch out for? Which new products are pulling in users worldwide?
Turner: We are coming in with our most popular products -- like Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities, which we expect to be the key ones, as ever. But there are a few like Norton System Works, CleanSweep, PCAnywhere, Norton 2000 and Norton Ghost which we feel will be well received in the Indian market.
Products like PCAnywhere and Telecommute will be key products in the corporate sector, where LAN and WAN make remote computing possible. This, and the '2000' series of products will be released in India in the fourth quarter of this year.
Our new line of products is built around the Internet -- e-mail anti-virus, content security, URL filtering. Since the Internet and e-commerce are growing areas worldwide and in India, these should be key products to watch out for.
domain-B: At a time when a fresh round of more potent viruses like Melissa and Happy99 are creating havoc, how have you at Symantec reacted to this menace? What has been the contribution of SARC (the Symantec anti-virus research centre)?
Tran: The new breed of viruses spread over the net, and this makes us more vulnerable. Certain client-side technologies (where a program is downloaded to the user machine and run from there) -- like ActiveX or Java -- could lead to virus attacks too.
At SARC we have been quick with our research and response to viruses. For example, the alarm for the attack on 26 April -- the fix was developed and posted without any delay even though it happened to come in at SARC on a weekend. The fix was made available online. We also call major users for live advice. We develop virus fixes for all major platforms, using a common engine, Sera III, so that it is easier to develop.
Ultimately, virus fix can be best achieved with safe computing practices, a good anti-virus package like Norton, with proper repair and diagnostic tools. Of course, some platforms are more vulnerable to viruses. Theoretically it is possible to develop viruses for most platforms, but, then, the most widely used becomes the most popular medium for viruses too.
domain-B: What has been your experience with software piracy globally? How do you view the situation in India?
Turner: Software piracy is a vital issue for us. Globally we have had different experiences -- mainly because of the intellectual property and piracy rules and their enforcement in different countries. Countries like Singapore are strict about these things, while in some other parts of Asia, piracy is rampant.
Basically, the governments have to amend the laws and enforce them strictly. Of course, software prices need to be affordable -- which they are now.
In India, though piracy is an issue, we have organisations like Nasscom that have been active against software piracy. It can only get better.
domain-B: Now that we are almost there with respect to the year 2000, how bad is the situation on the system compliance front?
Tran: It is not as bad as it would seem to be. With the corporate sector, we know the level of compliance and the measures taken for it. The surprise is going to be with the SOHO and small users. We do not know what is happening on that front.
September-October is going to be the critical time, when companies take stock of their compliance. The first checkpoint is the 1 Jan rollover. Among the three -- system files, applications and data files -- it is the last one which is going to be critical.
domain-B: What are the global computing technologies and trends that you see emerging? What are Symantec's offerings in these areas?
Turner: I wish we had a crystal ball to look into the future. But Internet is going to be the key technology for some time to come. This will require a lot of work to be done on security, where Symantec will be involved in a big way.
The larger trend will be PCs in homes, current single users graduating to multiple PCs, networking at this (home) level, cable internet and intelligent devices. Java will be a force in this trend.