At a time when large and small companies suffered from huge disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft wants to provide its customers with the opportunity to stay in business and ensure long-term sustainability, the president of the company in Asia told CNBC.
According to Ahmed Mazhari, one of the most difficult problems at the moment is the fragile balance between lives and livelihoods, as governments are forced to choose between restarting their economy or keeping them in a confined space to contain the virus.
Mazhari recently ended his first 100 days at the helm of Microsoft’s Asian business after replacing Ralph Haupter in February.
“Difficult times have come for humanity, but the last 100 days have been very diverse, disturbing moments with our customers, with our partners, with governments,” he said in a recent exclusive interview with CNBC.
“Our business priority is to help people become more sustainable in their enterprises and institutions in the long run,” added Mazhari. “In the short term, allowing them to continue the business.”
During its latest earnings report in late April, Microsoft said the initial impact of Covid-19 on the business was mixed. Cloud computing products such as Teams and Azure have become more popular as more organizations move to remote work. But “there has been a slowdown in transaction licensing, especially in small and medium-sized businesses, and a reduction in advertising costs on LinkedIn,” the company said.
Mazhari explained that there were two aspects in which Microsoft saw acceleration in its cloud business.
“One of them is just consumption, as a result of the fact that more … remote users, (a) much more people on the Internet, much more people who have access to corporate networks,” he said.
Another aspect was that institutions and corporations realized that they were not ready for remote work when a pandemic forced countries to tighten restrictions and require non-essential workers to work from home. “The cloud plays a huge role in virtualizing your workforce, virtualizing your technology and, therefore, your workforce,” added Mazhari.
In recent years, cloud computing has become a large part of Microsoft’s business model, and its Azure platform remains one of the dominant players in the market.
Microsoft said in its fiscal year 2021, which starts in July, its Asian business focuses on working with governments and communities to use digital technology and data analysis to respond to the coronavirus crisis and accelerate the recovery process.
The company added that it plans to help its customers achieve business continuity in areas such as telemedicine, online training, and day-to-day operations, as people continue to work remotely, which, according to some, is a fundamental social shift resulting from the pandemic.
According to the tech giant, cybersecurity and data privacy remain another area of focus for Microsoft. In March, senior technology managers surveyed by CNBC said cyber security risks had risen as most of their employees worked at home.
When asked about his prospects and that there was any restructuring or potential job cuts on the horizon, Majari said that business in Asia “continues to grow and we are making progress in helping out.”
“At this stage, our main task is to make sure that we can help our customers, our partners and governments to become stronger and help rethink the future based on comprehensive growth and better health,” he said.
The virus was first detected in China in late December and has since spread worldwide, infecting more than 9.1 million people and killing more than 470,000 people.