Zoom may have bombed the video conferencing market, but what’s a sunrise sector without a tadka of Indian entrepreneurial zeal? The mainstreaming of video since COVID-19 made work-from-home and virtual meetings the de facto standard mode of operating has also seen major Indian breakthroughs in this sector.
“The lockdown imposed by the pandemic completely transformed the way people work, and it opened up interesting opportunities for our business as well,” said Jerry Bindra, managing director of Chorus Call India, a leading provider of audio and video conferencing and collaboration tools.
While video conferencing as a business solution was already a growing sector, the extraordinary events of early 2020 shot it out of the park. Zoom became a by-word for video calls for anything from an office pow-wow to a virtual party of friends separated by the lockdown. It is estimated that just in the first few months of the coronavirus being detected in the country, India witnessed 60 lakh downloads of Zoom.
Other tech biggies and their video conferencing solutions also soon joined the parade, like Cisco’s WebEx and Microsoft’s Teams, prompting messenger apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, too, to upgrade their group video calling features.
And where there’s a gold rush, can Indians be far behind? Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani promptly launched JioMeet to a receptive local audience. While he may be the biggest, it does not discount the many intrepid startups who are dabbling in this, ranging from the likes of VacYa and TroopMessenger from Hyderabad, AirMeet from Bengaluru and Mumbai-based ‘Say Namaste.’
While video chat for the masses does offer immense scope for scaling up, the big players have their eyes firm on the business video conference market. As per DataLabs figures, Indian video conferencing market size was roughly around Rs 2,900 crore just before the lockdown, the trajectory shooting up to the stratosphere since then. According to 6Wresearch, it is projected to grow 20 per cent annually over the next five years.
The pandemic did help in changing consumer preferences, as Bindra of Chorus Call India recalls. The company’s primary line of business earlier was corporate virtual events like annual general body meetings of big companies like Adani, Infosys, TCS, among others, but most events saw participation through audio calls. “However, the work from home scenario forced people to give up their video inhibitions,” he said. “As a result, we have seen a rapid shift towards video-centric events, with more than 80 per cent of events now accounting for a video presence.”
Agrees Vishal Agrawal, managing director of Avaya (India and SAARC), “COVID-19 made industries ready for the future. As the world moved towards a remote model, businesses had to quickly adapt to the changing scenario.” Avaya says its remote working model, including cloud collaboration solutions, have helped 20 lakh Indians to work from home, or on a hybrid ‘home-office’ setup.
While an office meeting can also be done on a WhatsApp group video call, the stakes are too high when it comes to crucial corporate compliance matters, legal wrangling or strategic brainstorming sessions. “Organisations that are focused on stakeholder engagement and experience will strive to adopt managed conferencing as a must for the meetings that matter,” argues Bindra. “There will always be a market where customers will have sensitive calls which cannot be risked to chance.”
This is where the enterprise solution providers enter the picture. They offer anything from system integration and added security to custom web designing solutions and spatial audio for a better listening experience. Chorus Call’s c-meeting platform, for example, offers live operator assistance.
Meeting by Vu, has been another Made-in-India innovation hoping to bite off a slice of the video conferencing pie. Launched late last year by the popular TV manufacturer, it is a hardware especially attuned to future requirements of video conferencing, ranging from sharp and wide-angle cameras, professional-grade audio and video, and the choice of installing one’s choice of software. “It is a first not just for India but the entire world,” Devita Saraf, chairman & CEO of Vu group told this correspondent in an earlier interview. It is unlikely to be the last Indian innovation in this field, too.