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Boundary Breakers- Lightstorm

The disruptive newcomer

How Amajit Gupta is reshaping the fabric
of telecoms by introducing a unique
carrier-neutral infrastructure platform.

Combined, India and Indonesia have a population of over one-and-a-half billion people – as well as a rapidly evolving business landscape. Almost one in five human beings alive today live in one of these countries, yet businesses in both nations face challenges regarding connectivity. Lack of fiber and frequent cuts lead to unreliability and downtime, holding organizations back in the cloud age.

A blank canvas for evolving networks

Amajit Gupta saw the issue clearly. The aging network design of India’s legacy telcos meant that the speed they could move to meet digital consumption was not there. This impacted businesses as they struggled to shift to the cloud. And in a world where the cloud is central to digital experiences, growing demand in the country was unmet.

Businesses across South and Southeast Asia’s rapidly evolving marketplaces demand 100% uptime, low latency and high levels of control. For that, they require high-quality underlying digital infrastructure (such as fiber networks and data centers). And that’s precisely what Amajit, and his start-up Lightstorm, set out to deliver.

With experience across several of the world’s leading networking, telecoms and computing organizations, Amajit knew which pieces of the puzzle were missing. He also knew he had to put his skills and connections to good use, creating something sustainable, long-lasting and effective for his country – and the wider world.

“Our mission is to find the white space nobody else finds,” says Amajit. “In other words, solve problems nobody else has solved. “I was very conscious that we had to create a space to expand the market, not step on others’ toes. Therefore, I would imagine our competitors respect us. More importantly, our customers really value us. That gives me a lot of pride.”

A business born at the right time

But setting up this architecture during the pandemic called for meticulous planning and coordination internally, as well as with partners and government agencies.

Amajit describes Lightstorm as being born in the middle of the perfect storm. “We got our license in August 2020. And everyone knows what happened in January of 2021.” he says.

“It really was the only time in my telecom career that you could actually build sites with nobody on the roads and hardly anybody in the streets.”

In the end, the “white space” to build a new platform in became quite literal.

Freedom to grow and connect

Lightstorm began with a mission to help enterprises leapfrog into the cloud era.

Because Lightstorm was a total newcomer to the market, Amajit and his teams had the perfect opportunity to build a network architecture from the ground up.

The start-up launched without any legacy infrastructure or past investments to tie it down, and was able to move, test and grow faster than potential competitors. But that’s not the only factor making the difference for Lightstorm. The company’s design-first approach enables it to co-create solutions with its customers.

This blank canvas has also enabled Amajit and his team to build a truly neutral platform, able to serve any enterprise or network partner that needs it. And that has proven good for businesses, the country, and Lightstorm.

“Lightstorm has grown exponentially from just a few employees to a few hundred during the pandemic.”
Amajit Gupta
Group CEO and Managing Director, Lightstorm

Solutions, big and small

Lightstorm primarily serves organizations looking for ultra-reliable, ultra-scalable, low-latency pathways to the cloud. According to Amajit, such a service had simply never existed in India.

“Our first audience is large cloud providers,” explains Amajit. “These guys want to distribute their content deeper into the countryside, along with cities, and get them connected so that the experience on your phone and your home connection is equally fantastic. We built those highways to connect that cloud.”

But Lightstorm is also focused on helping enterprises embrace the best of the cloud. “It’s a completely different pain point. Do you know how many cloud and multi-cloud businesses want to scale in and scale out the network or spin up a Virtual Machine (VM) just like this?” says Amajit as he clicks his fingers. “That’s what our new solution Polarin helps CIOs solve for.”

Amajit explains that Lightstorm solves two key issues: agility and productivity for the CIO, and customer experience for large cloud providers. “We had to solve for these two [demands] to be able to launch the services that you now see on the ground.”

Disrupting the disruption

Lightstorm’s state-of-the-art data center interconnect network (SmartNet) and open, cloud-native networks are truly game-changing for the region. By bringing these technologies together in a completely novel way, Lightstorm aims to ease the congestion in the country’s network infrastructure.

The company also promises to bring down the bandwidth cost, deliver 100% uptime, and make it easier for businesses to benefit from the digital economy.

But, from the beginning, Amajit believed that introducing just a “new network” wouldn’t be enough. As his customers were clearly calling for greater openness, transparency and control, Amajit and his team went about developing a truly radical solution that could redefine how enterprises use the cloud in general.

BB Lightstorm-delhi-office

Creating a whole new market

Polarin is a first-of-its-kind Network-as-a-Service platform built with transparency, scalability, and flexible services at its core. It allows enterprises to easily manage their network infrastructure and securely deploy a high-availability network in minutes, with 100% uptime.

Amajit is, of course, excited about this. The product is not only creating a new category – but a whole new market.

“Millions of mid-market users and enterprises have a new problem to solve, which is basically ‘going to the cloud’, becoming hybrid. We’re giving them a tool that has never been offered to these markets: a do-it-yourself network.

“We asked ourselves, ‘if the web could be provisioned on the fly’, why couldn’t networks be done that way?”

Amajit’s team of engineers plowed their software smarts into the product, which is now live and working, already used by a handful of key customers. Amajit aims to make Polarin available for wide commercial use in the near future.

A start-up success story

Amajit attributes Lightstorm’s rapid success to a few simple ingredients.

“We had an idea. We had a passion. We had a dream. We had identified a space.”

But the business would have found succeeding more difficult without the backing of large global customers who believed in the project from an early stage, as well as some very good funding partners. These parties encouraged Amajit to execute on the business instead of worrying about raising money.

With funding secured, Amajit and his team tested their concepts at every stage – from network design to customer dialogues.

“I think our customers really value us,” reflects Amajit. “I see the best of the Fortune 500 adopting us for the long term, which gives me a lot of pride, and also a lot of respect from our peers.”

Amajit says that his core goal from the start was to create a sustainable enterprise that fills a space in several emerging markets and speaks to the market needs of the future.

BB Lightstorm-delhi-Gupta

Breaking barriers for the good of all

It’s often easy to forget that accessing the internet comes at a cost. And, for some businesses and communities in emerging markets, this cost can be a real barrier to business connectivity.

Amajit believes that while telecoms businesses may, naturally, benefit from keeping the “entry gates to the internet” behind artificial barriers, it is better in the long term to open them up to all.

“The temptation to follow the script for short-term gains was very much there,” says Amajit. “But both our investors and we believe that sustainability over the long term creates natural value of its own.”

“We decided to go with that principle and so far it's working brilliantly. It's not only good for Lightstorm, it's good for the market and for the nation. It's also good for infrastructure utilization, which comes at a premium in these parts of the world.”

The power of partnership

Amajit couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of having the right partners – those that resonate with your business plan.

Amajit is proud to say that mature partners – like Nokia – have not only helped bring Lightstorm’s vision to life but almost functioned as internal consultants, providing global expertise to in-house teams.

BB Lightstorm-partnerships

The future is light

Amajit is, naturally, proud of how far Lightstorm has come in such a short time. But he still knows there’s a lot of room for improvement – as there always will be when your aim is to continuously evolve.

He also sees plenty of opportunity outside India and Indonesia – Lightstorm’s two primary markets.

“We actually see opportunities from the Middle East to Southeast Asia,” says Amajit.

Lightstorm recently announced the expansion of its global footprint by beginning operations in the Middle East – strengthening its digital infrastructure in the region. The company also has expansion plans across the Asia Pacific region, which they aim to bring to fruition in the very near future.

“Along the way, we create value, we create a great workplace, we create some great customer relationships. And, of course, we play to our stakeholders – our investors, the government, and the country.”

Amajit’s three tips for making positive change in emerging markets

Tip 1:

It starts with honesty

Lead boldly and fearlessly, knowing you’re doing what you’re doing with integrity. Business is not always an easy ride, but the fruits of any genuine effort will be rewarding in the long run.

Tip 2:

Look for the white spaces

A blank canvas alone can be the spark that creates change. Amajit believes that if you can’t find the “white space” in a market – an area that you can expand upon and add value to – then you should focus your energies elsewhere.

Tip 3:

Work for the future

“I don’t believe this journey lasts for an individual,” says Amajit. The Lightstorm co-founder is always thinking of the future and the legacy of his work. He believes leaders should always look to make a lasting, sustainable impact that keeps delivering long after the creator has retired.

Break your own boundaries

“We learn from our peers. We learn from incumbents. We learn from new start-ups. And this is a continuous process of learning, sharing and growing.”
Amajit Gupta
Group CEO and Managing Director, Lightstorm

Connect to Nokia’s solutions

Learn about the technologies helping Lightstorm to reshape cloud networks across India and Southeast Asia.