As data centres see booming demand in India on the back of rapid digitisation, 5G rollout and generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) revolution, leading companies are gearing up for a long-drawn battle to grab the largest pie of the market share. This competition has intensified as the industry witnessed the entry of Digital Connexion—three-way joint venture (JV) between Brookfield Asset Management, Reliance Industries Limited and Digital Realty, as it launched its first data centre in Chennai on January 12.
In an exclusive interview with Outlook Business, Digital Connexion's Chief Executive Officer CB Velayuthan explains how the company plans to take on the existing competition, its AI-preparedness, their sustainability efforts and more.
Could you tell us about the support you have received from the government and the role it is playing to ensure a facility like this sets up a precedent for other data centres across India?
Right from when we decided to come in and start our first data centre here in Chennai, the Government of Tamil Nadu and 'Guidance Tamil Nadu' (a nodal agency for investment promotion and single window facilitation) have been supportive and encouraging of what we do. 'Guidance Tamil Nadu' is a unique and great team that the Tamil Nadu government started with the sole purpose of helping industries to come in and navigate through the government (using) a single window to get our way around.
They have worked with us to provide multiple sources of power from different power stations so that we can have uninterrupted, but also redundant power. They also helped us with approvals needed to operate this facility and did this expeditiously. The Minister of IT and Digital Services Dr Palanivel Thiagarajan inaugurated our data centre, which reflects how the Tamil Nadu government wants to encourage industries and companies to come here and work.
How will you support the capacity and connectivity requirements of a host of players, such as cloud service providers, hyperscalers and enterprise customers?
One of the reasons we chose Chennai as our first data centre is because it is the second-densest city in terms of subsea cable connections. Having access to these subsea cables helps companies wanting to connect to their branches or other companies globally, as it is easier, faster and more efficient than having it in any other city. This was a big reason for Digital Connexion to come to Tamil Nadu and use that as leverage to connect with other players in the state.
While three leading companies are coming into this JV, how will you tackle the competition from more prominent players like Adani and Airtel, who have been in the data centre business for a long time?
We believe we are unique because Digital Connexion is a JV between Brookfield, Jio and Digital Realty. All three are global leaders in their fields, and this unique combination brings in all companies' powerhouse and profound knowledge, technology and resources. This combination gives us the right to aspire and want to become the number one data centre company in the country.
Do you have a timeline in mind for that?
Our first data centre is a state-of-the-art world-class (facility), which has been done with technology from Digital Realty and Jio. For us, this is just the start of the journey. We have already announced our next data centre in Mumbai, and we intend to become the leader in the data centre space in India.
With rapid AI transformation and things changing daily, what are you doing to ensure you are one step ahead of AI?
AI is absolutely one of the multiple technology transformations happening in the world today and it is growing at a pace where we think data that is being generated from some of these Gen AI applications is going to exceed human-generated data. And then, they are going to start growing at an exponential rate. The challenge for companies is to see how you can be on top of that.
Digital Connexion is uniquely positioned because our company is one of the few in the country with deep connections with our global parent, Digital Realty, which operates in 25 countries and over 300 data centres. So, we already have the know-how to operate AI-intensive workloads worldwide.
For us, it's about transforming the technology and leveraging it and driving it, compared to all the other data centre players who are here and have to learn about it.
With data centre demand exploding, prices will likely shoot up. How do you plan to remain competitive and manage this growing demand?
Our main mission is to bring world-class data centres to this country in a way that is probably absent today and to leverage the strength of our parents. Customers want to look at data centre solutions that are secure, world-class and have global connectivity. And all of these are some things that we are very proud of. The other element for us is that Digital Realty has some of the deepest relationships, having been operating in this field for a long time. They have deep customer relationships, which we will leverage and use to build on as these companies start coming into the country.
What are you doing to ensure your data centres are sustainable?
We're doing a few things: this data centre is one of the most modern facilities in the country, which means that we are operating at a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) that is among some of the best PUE levels in the country. It means that for every one megawatt that a corporation or an enterprise wants to use, how much power we are using for the whole building and air conditioning.
We have used some cutting-edge proprietary technologies to bring that PUE down to the lowest level, and that makes the centre more efficient.
The other element is renewable energy. We are planning with our parent, Brookfield, one of the country's largest renewable energy operators, to see how we can get renewable energy as a prime source of powering up this data centre as we go forward.
Currently, are you not using any renewable energy?
Currently, we've got power from the state grids that are coming in. As we launch and start getting operational, we are looking at it on a staged basis. Because we just started this data centre, using renewable will be the next step.
How do you plan to attract top talent as data centres worldwide find it difficult to do so?
With Digital Connexion being a company of three big leaders in their fields, we have become an attractive place for employees to come and work with us. We are also excited about that as we can be a place where teams can come in and grow and leverage our international strengths. We are excited for the opportunity we can provide.