Ten minutes with… Wim Elfrink

Wim Elfrink, Cisco's chief globalisation officer, is a man with a mission - he is busy setting up Cisco's base in the Indian city of Bangalore, and developing it into a full-fledged corporate office. Eliot Beer caught up with him on a recent visit to Dubai.

  • E-Mail
By  Eliot Beer Published  December 16, 2007

Wim Elfrink, Cisco's chief globalisation officer, is a man with a mission - he is busy setting up Cisco's base in the Indian city of Bangalore, and developing it into a full-fledged corporate office. Eliot Beer caught up with him on a recent visit to Dubai.

What is Cisco's globalisation strategy?

A lot! GDP growth in what we call emerging markets is higher - far higher - than in any of the so-called mature markets. For Cisco, this means we expect 70% of our future growth to come out of the Middle East, Africa, China and the other Bric countries.

We have publicly stated that we will have 20% of Cisco’s top talent in Cisco East. That’s absolutely not the case yet.

This is not hype - we really believe in it. So then you get the traditional question - American companies export, but that isn't real globalisation, is it? We think that the growth will come out of these parts of the world - but we also think the innovation will come from here as well. This is the second element in our globalisation strategy, being able to capture the innovation.

For innovation, a lot of it will be greenfield - look at Dubai, it's a perfect example of something coming out of nothing. We also expect a lot of new business models to emerge here, specifically managed and hosted services. The penetration of PCs is far lower here than in developed markets. Things will be mobile here. We've decided we want to be closer to this innovation, in terms of R&D.

The third aspect is the need for talent - if you look at the next five to ten years, our need for professionals will grow tenfold. These people are simply not around in the US and Europe.

So growth, innovation and talent management have all made us decide to come closer to this part of the world. Globalisation for us meant we had to build a second head office - that's how we chose India. Here we have the whole range of activities - services creation, R&D, marketing, finance - you can really see it as our second head office.

So we have what we call a Globalisation Centre East in India - and it's not about India, it's about the East.

We've chosen India because there we have the talent available, it's a democracy and a free market - we feel comfortable there, we know how it works. India has a great partner base, with companies like Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Satyam - for India, ICT is an export product, and we want to be known as an Indian company that can help our partners to export.

If you draw a circle around India, you have all these great, innovative places within a three-hour flight, such as Dubai - I'm planning to be here every six weeks, to build relationships and meet a lot of developers here.

For Cisco, real estate is going to be one of the big opportunities - converged networks aren't happening yet in real estate. To do convergence in mature markets is very expensive, because it's retrofitting - but if you think about the towers being built here, and you think about the amount of copper you save with converged networking, it's tremendous. But even more, you can develop all kinds of new services - security, entertainment - but also a lot of data mining. For developers, we think converged networks are going to be a major opportunity, and will be added to their portfolio of services.

So for me, Dubai is really a beach-head - Cisco has never worked with developers, so we have to build these relationships, build an entirely new ecosystem. We have to enable companies like Siemens, Honeywell.

What specifically will Cisco be doing to make itself a globalised company?

First I think it's a mindset. It's almost a management challenge. We'll also be using our technology to help us - although I will be travelling to Dubai every six weeks, I'll also be using Telepresence [Cisco's video conferencing system] to build relationships.

Also, to learn globalisation, we have to learn new cultures, new ways of thinking - and believe me, being a board member, we're meeting on a weekly basis, and we can no longer have meetings on a Friday afternoon! We all say we understand different cultures - but we don't.

So what we're doing with globalisation is to create a more collaborative way of managing the company. A lot of American organisations are very much command and control - this is the plan, that's what we're doing. For us, there will be a lot more input from this part of the world - a complete R&D centre will be here, new partners will be here, and using technology we can all collaborate and work together.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code