Xerox: Moving Beyond a 2 Rupee Copy

A few years ago, instead of fearing being obsolete when the printing industry panicked, Xerox evolved its business from printing solutions to imaging solutions. Various case studies have been published on this transformation worldwide. Sophie Vandebroek, CTO of Xerox speaks to Dataquest about how Xerox evolved over the years, changed its products, focus and market, and its activities in India. Excerpts:

On the shift from printing to document management technologies: Xerox was known as a printing pioneer, but since consumers have been moving to alternative mediums like the Internet, the entire printing industry has been hit hard. Xerox had a near-death experience about a decade ago. The renowned computing pioneer and scientist Alan Curtis Kay said in the 70's, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." And that's what Xerox did. Instead of fearing the worst, Xerox used its available expertise to focus on imaging solutions and created a huge market for itself. Xerox took the idea of IT outsourcing and put in place document technology outsourcing. IT service providers usually buy and manage servers, routers, switches and help desks – Xerox does that with document technology.

It's just last year that Xerox's imaging solutions started attributing to over half of the organization's revenue. Today, over 55 percent of the revenue comes from document technology outsourcing, while copying and printing contributes the rest of about 45 percent. By 2017, 75 percent of revenue should come from the services business.

What are the verticals you cater to?

Xerox now caters to verticals like healthcare, transport, education, banking, BFSI and litigation. There's a demand for document management technologies coming in from all these verticals, and we focus more on healthcare and education here. We process over $900 million from healthcare clients.

On Xerox's presence in India:

India plays a major role in Xerox's research. We set up an office in Chennai in 2010 and had about 7 people for a year. We look for small numbers, but big talent. However, we realised soon that we couldn't attract much talent there. It's like Chennai is the Detroit of India, and Bangalore is the Silicon Valley.

Hence, Xerox started its Bangalore operations in 2011. We were able to attract more Ph.D holders as researchers. The number increased immediately from 7 to 25. Now there are 35 researchers. We'd like the number to increase to 100, but we'd like to keep it limited. Beside computer science experts, we have also hired talent in ethnography, psychology, sociology, product design etc.who play a huge role in design and interface.

The India center develops solutions for the global market with a special focus on the emerging market. It works on areas like analytics, mobile and human computation. For instance, we have a traffic monitoring solution that works for developed markets. However, due to lack of lane discipline, we have to modify it and create a different solution for India. Besides, in the education and healthcare sector, there is a clear lack of qualified professionals in rural areas. We hope to address such problems specific to emerging markets to be solved first at the rural level and then taken forward to global markets. The tech development team is in the US and Europe, and some development for transportation vertical is done in India.