The data centre industry is poised for a period of sustained growth, primarily due to diverse range of consumption. With the government granting infrastructure status, players can get long-term funding at lower cost, so expansion would be faster. Rajesh Tapadia, director & CEO, Nxtra, a unit of Bharti Airtel, which is a key player in the segment, tells Kiran Rathee the company has planned an investment of Rs 5,000 crore by 2025 to triple its capacity to 400 MW. Excerpts.
Has the infrastructure status granted to the data centre industry in this year’s Budget made a difference?
Yes. With a growing dependence of businesses on digital infrastructure, we are delighted with the government’s decision to accord infrastructure status to data centres. As data centre is a capital-intensive industry, this would result in fast access to attractive long-term funding at lower costs, not just from Indian financial institutions but from international lenders as well, and it will help providers expedite their geographical expansion strategies and help strengthen India’s position as a regional data centre hub.
How is Nxtra going to make the most of this move?
Nxtra by Airtel already operates India’s largest network of 12 large and 120 edge data centres. In coming years, we will accelerate our capacity augmentations across data centre parks in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad, NCR and Kolkata and infrastructure status recognition will help accelerate the plans. We will also add new capacities in our edge sites to enable 5G, edge, and security services. Our experience of operating secure data centres, deep brand trust in the enterprise segment and the ability to deliver end-to-end digital transformation solutions positions us well to serve the emerging requirements of India’s connected economy. Sustainability will continue to be a big focus given the huge energy requirements of data centres. We are aggressively scaling up the use of green energy in our data centres and aim to reach 50% of the power requirements of these centres through renewable sources by FY23. We have an ambition to reach net zero by 2031.
How do you see the industry evolving over the next few years with many players entering the fray?
We believe the country has the potential to be a regional data centre hub given India’s strategic location, availability of submarine cable landing infrastructure, land supply, vast green energy resources, skilled manpower and favourable regulations. With this, coupled with local data storage regulations, India will witness a strong demand for reliable hyperscale data centre infrastructure. Technology advancements such as cloud adoption, IoT devices, 5G rollout, OTT and gaming traction will further accentuate the edge story and bring solid momentum to the fore. We believe the market is big enough for all the players to co-exist and we aim to be one of the leading players in the data centre market.
What kind of investment does Bharti intend to bring to the data centre business?
Nxtra by Airtel is a key pillar of Airtel’s digital strategy. We have committed to invest Rs 5,000 crore by 2025 to triple our capacity to 400 MW. As part of this investment, we will be creating seven hyperscale data centre parks across major metro cities in India and will further expand capacity in edge data centres to support the journeys of our customers to scale and create a digital future.