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Amazon Provided Nearly $1 Billion In Credits Through AWS Activate To Help Start-Ups Globally, Says Kumara Raghavan, Head Of Start-Ups, AWS India

Raghavan outlines how AWS is working on constantly lowering the cost of curiosity and experimentation for founders, with its flagship Activate programme helping start-ups build products without worrying about costs

Amazon Provided Nearly $1 Billion In Credits Through AWS Activate To Help Start-Ups Globally, Says Kumara Raghavan, Head Of Start-Ups, AWS India
Kumara Raghavan, Head Of Start-Ups, AWS India
POSTED ON June 05, 2023 11:33 AM

Amazon Web Services (AWS) claims to have provided numerous start-ups in India with several benefits through its AWS Activate initiative since 2013, including AWS credits, technical support and training. Aware that growth-stage start-ups are always eager to lower costs while continuing to innovate, it embraced the philosophy of constantly reducing its prices. 

Kumara Raghavan, Head of Start-Ups at AWS India, believes that the needs of each start-up vary according to the different phases of its growth journey. In the early stage, when it is building products, the company focuses on helping the start-up minimise undifferentiated work through AWS Activate and the Activate console, which brings in more efficiency and optimisation of time and resources. 

As a start-up progresses to the next stage and aims for more customers, Raghavan tells Outlook Start-Up that AWS steps in with programmes to help with customer acquisition and team building.   

Edited excerpts

How will Amazon’s recent decision to lay off people, including from the AWS team, impact its start-up initiatives? 

The role reductions in AWS were driven by reprioritisation decisions, which required us to reallocate resources. Having said that, we continue to invest in areas where we believe our customers will benefit the most. 

AWS plans to invest Rs 1,05,600 crores ($12.7 billion) in India by 2030 into our local cloud infrastructure. Our planned investment will contribute Rs 1,94,700 crores ($23.3 billion) to India’s GDP by 2030 and support approximately 1,31,700 full time jobs annually at local businesses. 

This is more attuned towards the need of enterprises, which is often different from those of start-ups. How does AWS differentiate between the two? 

Our initiatives address both enterprise and start-up needs. Many investments, like the AWS Asia Pacific regions in Mumbai and Hyderabad, are used by our customers across enterprises, start-ups, as well as small and medium businesses (SMBs). 

Since start-ups have unique requirements, we aim to make cloud technologies accessible to them and support them at every stage of their journey, whether it's experimenting with technologies like AI or lowering costs. As an input-driven company, we adapt our offerings after listening to our customers. 

For instance, our team members are tasked with helping our customers optimise their costs and reduce a start-up customer’s cloud bill, which is one of our business metrics. This ensures that start-ups make the most economically efficient use of our services. 

How is AWS strengthening its start-up initiatives in India? 

Amazon is deeply committed to supporting start-ups in India. Over the past year alone, it provided nearly $1 billion in credits globally through the AWS Activate program to help start-ups scale their businesses.  

AWS team members are tasked with helping its customers optimise their costs and reduce a start-up customer’s cloud bill

We have been running our flagship programme AWS Activate since 2013 to onboard start-ups. Those in the early stage receive training and cloud credits, which allows them to build their products without worrying about costs. 

Our three other cohorts include ML Elevate, which specifically focuses on identifying early-stage machine learning (ML)-based start-ups and provides them with resources like mentorship. SaaS Central aims to identify early-stage SaaS start-ups, and then we have the AccelerateHer accelerator programme dedicated to women-founded start-ups.  

While these cater to early-stage start-ups, how does AWS support them as they scale up, for instance utilising new technology like generative AI alongside their existing tech stack? 

We support early-stage start-ups through programmes like AWS Activate. It helps them develop their ideas and minimum viable product (MVP), which is critical to launching their offerings. Founders are more focused on customer acquisition when they reach mid-stage. Hence, they seek better contacts and guidance on pricing, packaging, product development, go-to-market strategies, team building, etc., which we offer. 

Last year, we took 23 early-stage SaaS start-ups to the US as part of a mentorship programme and connected them with successful peers who provided them with valuable insights on scaling and succeeding in global markets. Similarly, we supported the expansion of cloud-based marketing automation company MoEngage into the ASEAN region by connecting them with over 230 chief marketing officers of enterprise companies from six countries. This resulted in them getting seven new clients. 

Does this mean AWS is more focused on the SaaS vertical? 

This is just one of the many examples where we work closely with start-ups. Our mission is to empower founders to build a better India and we work with start-ups across the ecosystem. 

AWS India
Last year, AWS India took 23 early-stage SaaS start-ups to the US as part of a mentorship programme

Coming to SaaS start-ups, we programmatically approach this sector through two avenues. They can list their solutions on AWS Marketplace for discovery by our customers, including enterprises, SMBs and other start-ups. 

This provides an easy deployment and billing experience while these founders can focus on their software development and operations. For instance, cloud deployment start-up Amnic could enhance its developer productivity by around 25 per cent and reduce costs by around 20 per cent. 

Start-ups want to differentiate themselves while building the best products as they scale. How does AWS help them? 

A primary thing that start-ups in this stage want is to lower costs while continuing to innovate. Since our inception, we have lowered prices 129 times, offering an element of predictability to our customers in terms of cost reduction. 

We offer 200 services across different industry verticals along with technologies like AWS Graviton-based instances, which can improve price performance by as much as 40 per cent compared to traditional deployments. Working with customers, we help them to identify workloads that they can move to Graviton, which can save costs.

Additionally, tools like AWS Cost Explorer allow start-ups to monitor costs and set alerts and limits, enabling them to take specific actions to lower costs and improve security.

SaaS start-up Atlan could scale its deployment seamlessly across 100 customers globally by leveraging AWS Global Infrastructure. At the same time, it managed to reduce its computing costs by 50 per cent to 70 per cent by using Amazon EKS on-spot instances, as compared to on-demand instances. 

Cloud adoption amongst enterprises is still low globally and in India. What gives AWS the confidence that start-ups will take to it faster? 

Start-ups seek to innovate rapidly and experiment at scale. Building and deploying on-premises can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Cloud provides the agility to deploy their solutions in different regions, offering them a choice that is not pre-ordained. 

Furthermore, it enables them to build their solutions securely and offers them scalability in handling periods of high demand or low activity. Also, start-ups operate in a different context compared to enterprises, who have had a long journey in their cloud adoption process. 

What percentage of start-ups in India have started using the cloud? 

Though I wouldn’t know the exact number, start-ups, by their nature, are more inclined to begin on the cloud. However, we do come across instances where some start-ups start with on-premises solutions. This could be due to various reasons, such as regulatory concerns. 

Nonetheless, we have many start-up customers who shifted their entire workloads to the cloud. When it comes to the cloud adoption journey, there would be early adopters and then laggards. 

Numerous studies demonstrate the immense benefits of leveraging the cloud’s power. For example, a study by RTI International found that for every Rs 100 spent on the AWS cloud, customers received a profit of Rs 350. It also found that about 70 per cent of start-up customers used AWS services to achieve their annual turnover goal. The power of the cloud is undeniable, and it is supported by data. 

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