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    In new devices, India a fast-growing marketplace: Todd Gebhart

  • In new devices, India a fast-growing marketplace: Todd Gebhart

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January 25, 2014

Interview with Vice-Chairman, McAfee Inc

US-headquartered computer security software company McAfee, to be renamed Intel Security, has had a presence in India since 2003, when it set up its first office with only 30 employees. Today, a little less than 20 per cent of McAfee's global headcount is based out of India. Todd Gebhart, vice-chairman, in his first visit to India, spoke to Itika Sharma Punit about the company's plans and related issues. Edited excerpts:

Q: What will be the top trends in the security space in 2014 for McAfee?

A: The biggest trend would be what we call cross-device security. We think there are about 1.5 billion IP-connected devices; by 2020, this is expected to go up to 50 bn. This growth is coming from all kinds of devices-personal computers (PCs), tablet, smartphone, television, watches, automobile, refrigerators and even dishwashers. In such a connected environment, anything connected to the internet is at risk. Many of these devices are still being built without security from the start.

So, as a company, we are focused on protecting our consumers' digital life, not only their devices. The other trend would be protection against identity, probably the largest threat. According to industry numbers, an average consumer visits 18 websites a day, for which he needs passwords. And, 50 per cent of all consumers use the password 123456; the second most popular one is 'password'. How hard is it for the bad guys to figure that out?

Q: How do you see India as a market?

A: Today, the total market opportunity for McAfee in India is in single-digits but a lot of that is because when you look at the PC and internet penetration here, it is still a relatively small number compared to the total size of the population. But in the new devices segment, India is a huge marketplace and growing very quickly. That's why our strategy around cross-device security is very important to India. It gives us the opportunity to participate in this market like we haven't been able to before.

Q: Several global giants have made acquisitions in India. Would you be open to such opportunities?

A: Sure, of course. We made two acquisitions in India earlier. McAfee as a company is about 8,000 people, of which 1,500 are in India, so a good percentage of our employees reside here. So, why wouldn't we look at acquisition opportunities?

Will you continue to expand your employee base in India?

A: Employment here might not continue at the same pace; the rate of growth might slow but it will also be balanced by the skill sets we have.

Q: What is the reason for the company looking to re-brand itself Intel Security?

A: Co-branding or bringing together two brands is far more effective than a single brand. There are several points to prove that when you co-brand, you have a higher trust level. Intel is a huge brand and has good reputation; McAfee is an established name in its segment. When you look at the credibility and trust behind the Intel brand for computing, and the credibility and trust around the McAfee brand for security, bringing those two together is very logical. Bringing together two powerful brands will help build trust in the marketplace, solving the secure computing problem.

John McAfee, founder of the compan, has claimed your products have reached a point of almost universal consumer hatred and these are intrusive and difficult to install.

John has not been involved with the company for many years. I don't think we would have be winning all the awards we have if what John is saying was true. He certainly has some self-interest in doing what he is doing and so, he will continue to do that. The good news is everyone we do business with recognises he does not represent our company.

Q: Not only John; many other Internet users have voiced some criticism about your offerings.

A: We take those comments very seriously. We know we are not perfect but we do strive to be. So, when we see and hear things like that, we take it to heart and put it into our systems, we look at what they are saying and we try to understand if it is right or wrong. Even if it is wrong, we try to determine why it was said and try to correct that. Criticism is another form of flattery and we take it very seriously. We work towards making a better product every time we hear something like that.