Andy Stevenson,Head of India, Turkey and the Middle East for Fujitsu

After 25 years with Fujitsu, a leading information and communication te­ch­­­nology company, Andy Steven­son is clear about one of the distinguishing features that sets the company apart from its rivals, namely, its Japanese heritage in terms of excellence and design, and its depth of capability in research and development. It is this that gives it a leading edge in technology. “I see it as a global innovator that has not yet tapped its full market potential,” he says.

As someone who has lived and worked in different countries in the early years of his career, and acquired plenty of in-depth international work experience, Stevenson’s move to Bengaluru, after about 12 years in Solihull in the UK, did not come a day too soon for him. He had been hankering to go abroad for some time and the opportunity, when it came two years ago, was perfect. It was the appeal of the Indian market that brought him here to head India, Turkey and the Middle East for Fujitsu.

In these two years, Fujitsu has grown almost 100 per cent. It is currently undergoing a slight consolidation as it works out its approach for the next phase of ambitious growth. “India is a very significant market for us. We want to bring the best of our global delivery ability here. As we continue to analyse the Indian market, we will start to leverage this global delivery ability and make sure we have the right expertise to engage with clients in India,” he says.

Traditionally, Stevenson explains, whoever heads India, Turkey and the Middle East has been based in Dubai but because he felt that India had greater potential for business transformation, he wanted to be based in India while simultaneously running the company’s Middle East operations.

After considering Delhi and Mumbai, he decided, for a variety of reasons, to set up home in Bengaluru where he lives with his wife Julie, for whom this is the first experience of living overseas. His grown-up son and daughter from his earlier marriage remain in the UK.

Before coming to India, Stevenson served in a dual role, as chief executive officer of Fujitsu Telecommunications Eu­­rope and as executive director of the hos­ting and network services group at Fujitsu Services Holdings PLC (Fujitsu UK and Ireland). In his time at Fujitsu he has played a leading role in guiding the company to its position as a key telecommunications products and technology provider, and a leader in the UK and Ireland IT services industry.

In fact, one of the highlights of his career was when the company won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Inno­va­tion 2005, for the Fujitsu GeoStream Access Gateway technology, which was deployed in telephone exchanges to deliver broadband services to homes and businesses in the UK.

“In India, there is a certain hunger for a fast pace of digital transformation, which we don’t see elsewhere, and that is what presents us with a challenge.”

The technology played a key role in the migration of millions of end-users to advanced broadband services. Its flexible, scalable design brought broadband to large metropolitan areas as well as remote, rural communities. “We had the largest market share for broadband during the period 2005-10. We became the telecom infrastructure provider for the UK Post Office’s communications services. We provided them with a complete platform to manage customer experience,” he says.

Stevenson spent a large part of his early life in Zambia and Qatar. He was seven years old when his father decided to leave their home in Scotland to move the entire family to Zambia. His father helped the Zambian government to build air-conditioning and laundry facilities in new government hospitals while enjoying everything that Zambia offered in terms of the climate and the great outdoors.

“The government’s digital initiatives are going to be the building blocks that will open up the market and create a great environment for companies like us.”

Although the young Stevenson was sent back to boarding school in Scotland, all his vacations were spent in Zambia, first in Dola and later in Lusaka. “I’ve got very fond memories, of swimming, adventure, safaris, Victoria Falls, all that formative stuff,” he says.

After a few years in Qatar, where he finished his school education, Stevenson went to Nottingham Polytechnic to study computer science. After graduating, he worked with a start-up for three years before joining Alcatel as a software engineer. With Alcatel, he spent time working in Paris and Stuttgart. In 1991, he returned to the UK, this time to Birmingham with Fujitsu and later to Solihull.

Digital disruption is something he sees as inevitable. “What is noticeable about India is that there are many large enterprises that do not have a huge legacy of technology infrastructure as you would normally see in Western institutions or Western companies. This means there is a certain hunger for a fast pace of digital transformation, which we don’t see elsewhere, and that is what presents us with a challenge,” he says.

Although he is impressed with the government’s drive towards a digital India and smart cities, Stevenson says the regulatory environment is still complex. It’s not easy for a company to be sure that it is fully compliant with the regulations at the state and central levels. “That said, I believe that the government’s digital initiatives are going to be the building blocks that will open up the market and create a great environment for companies like us,” he says.

Last month, Fujitsu launched a new cybersecurity business focused on ensuring business continuity for organisations that fall victim to cyberattacks. The new portfolio of security solutions for India, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa aims to strengthen businesses’ resilience against attacks through services such as continuous system monitoring and early warning defences.

Stevenson says that security is critical to Fujitsu customers and vital for the digital transformation that is taking place. He says the company’s long history of working in security, ranging from enterprise security to national security including for defence agencies in Japan, Australia and the UK, makes it perfectly positioned to offer solutions to commercial customers as cybersecurity assumes growing importance. He says it is important to evolve from just fixing cyber issues to really getting underneath to see what is going on with these threats – how they are being constructed and what they are targeting.

“One of the biggest barriers to adopting cybersecurity technology is the lack of trust in the infrastructure. We help our clients to understand the risks and offer solutions. One of our tasks is to make sure that the Indian market fully understands what we have to offer in terms of global service capability and to integrate all these capabilities, from technology to high-end services, so that we can help people manage the digital transformation smoothly,” he says.

As a seasoned expat, there wasn’t much that surprised him about Bengaluru – with the possible exception of the horrendous traffic. However, even though he knew that India has many languages, he has been struck by just how many there are, and the fact that his colleagues in Delhi or Gurgaon cannot necessarily be able to com­municate with his staff in, say, Chen­nai or Bengaluru. “Customers in Chennai will have different expectations from customers in Mumbai and much of that difference is rooted in local culture. A colleague in Chennai dealing with a customer in Chennai has a better chance of success than someone from Delhi would, and a lot of that is to do with the level of comfort and the personal relationship aspect of the engagement,” he says.

Life in Bengaluru is happy and busy, he says. His social circle comprises a mix of Indian and expat friends. He plays squash (he learnt the game in Zambia as a young boy) and plays for a local league team in Bengaluru. He loves the work culture at Fujitsu. “It’s the classical Japanese pursuit of excellence that manifests itself in superb technology. What I’m looking forward to seeing in the future is how the company can be a significant player in the digital era,” he says.