From emerging opportunities to factors driving the growth and adoption of unified communications, Minhaj Zia, Managing Director, Polycom India & SAARC brings us his views from the Indian subcontinent.
What were some of the biggest factors driving the adoption of video and unified communications in the past year?
If you look at India as a market, there are various customer segments when it comes to video and UC. Some of them are really advanced technology adopters while some are lagging or not yet aware of its impact on workforce productivity. The primary focus for most customers today is increasing the productivity of their workforce to reduce costs and enable their people to come together as dynamic teams, no matter where they are located. When I talk about early adopters of technology, there are three influential factors I refer to specifically when it comes to video collaboration:
1.IT services in India. This segment is growing very fast on an average of 15% year on year. It is worth almost USD $100 billion worth of exports collectively, employing close to 3.2 million people directly, and indirectly employing almost twice that number. That’s a large workforce of knowledge workers which serves not just the Indian market but globally too with huge numbers of customers in North America, Europe, Australia and even China. Their profitability is really dependent on workforce productivity, because their business is people – delivery teams who are typically based in India, and sales teams based out of other geographies – who are serving customers globally. Video collaboration enables employees to build trust among each other, save time in coordination of activities, and helps ensure projects are delivered to customers on time.
2. Government. India is a very large country and it is impossible for its administrators (ministers, government employees, and bureaucrats) to offer citizen services and coordinate projects down to a village level. The patience of citizens is also not what it used to be; in the internet age when citizens can get instant gratification from private sector services, they expect the same level of service from government departments as well. The easiest way to provide this is with video, as other technologies are not as effective in making such timely collaboration possible. There is also a lot of money being invested in the Digital India project, an ambitious programme to digitise and automate entire processes of governance.
3. The proliferation of network in India. Previously the availability of networks was weak in certain rural areas and even in some urban areas. With huge growth in telecom and mobile data that continues very rapidly, Indian customers are now able to adopt video technology more easily.
What emerging markets and opportunities will you target in 2015?
The Indian environment is evolving in many ways – transitioning from small towns to new cities, many new start-ups, and large growth of SMBs. There are 2 million SMB companies in India below 50 or 100 employees, and they are driving job creation and spurring on technology innovation, because they cannot leverage on large financial muscle or workforce to compete. Instead, these SMBs use technology to create new business models, which can disrupt the way large companies operate.
E-commerce is an example of this disruption. India had a very unorganised retail sector, unlike Western counterparts which operate large retail chains that dominate the industry. With the penetration of Internet, the retail sector here skipped the ‘large chain’ model of growth and quickly made a move to e-commerce. This presents an opportunity to provide technology-enabled collaboration to retailers to help them become more competitive in the market.
Other new opportunities for Polycom India & SAARC lie in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. These economies are also emerging, but video adoption is about 10 years behind India and growth can really be accelerated. We have already partnered with the leading service provider in Pakistan, PTCL to offer Video as a Service to enterprise customers. It is an exciting time for such markets.
Government initiatives such as the Digital India project also present great opportunities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a big digital and technology focus and initiated a lot of e-governance and digitisation in Gujarat, where he was the Chief Minister. He is now driving these same initiatives at a country level and the Government has announced considerable investment for technology initiatives such as virtual classrooms for skills training. This will be the solution for faster development of skills across the country, and bridge the gaps in the availability of specialised trainers. Through video classrooms, these trainers can reach people all over the country, no matter where they are located, and help develop required skills such as in manufacturing, another big focus for the Government driving programmes like the Make in India campaign.
There is also a big push towards establishing good power and infrastructure in India – such as ports to city connectivity via roads and superfast railway lines. Faster delivery of these projects can only be achieved with strong collaboration. There was even a government circular directing employees to use video conferencing to save money on travel and make faster decisions. With a majority market share in government today, innovative collaboration technology and a strong presence in India, Polycom is very well placed to support these government initiatives.
Which market segments have the greatest growth potential for Polycom India and SAARC?
Polycom India remains focused on being the leading collaboration partner for our customers – whether in government or in the private sector offering seamless user experience, and open and interoperable technologies through an ecosystem of expert partners. We will have deeper engagement with our large enterprise customers, and examine how their collaboration experience can be further enhanced, be it with upgraded audio conferencing, content sharing, recording or streaming. It is not just about selling end-points for us, we will continue to look at what more we can offer as a business solution, which will have a greater impact on organisational workflows, to drive customers’ bottom line growth.
For example, we have learned that more of our larger customers want end-to-end managed services based on service level agreements and delivered through an Opex model. Our audio conferencing solutions continue to have fantastic growth, but now it’s about helping our customers enhance their audio capabilities with advanced solutions such as the Polycom SoundStructure, and this is another area of focus.
Although currently only about 10% of the UC market, cloud technology is also gaining traction in India and we are poised to leverage this growth. In addition to our partnership with PTCL to offer cloud-based video services, we are also working with service provider partners in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
As always, we will align closer and invest more with our partners, so we can jointly share the successes of our go-to-market and expansion plans.
What were some of your customer highlights for 2014?
We’ve had some really fantastic wins this year and I will call out a few that resulted in great business transformations. A major success for us in 2014 was with leading Indian jewellery retailer, PC Jeweller (PCJ). The company selected Polycom video to enable seamless connectivity between 45 store locations and design and management sites across India. The company adopted video collaboration solutions to increase their business value selling. A customer can now walk into one of their stores and collaborate with designers over video, or in fact even arrange to inspect and purchase an item which may only be available in another store location. By adding video to their customer service, PCJ can avoid revenue leakage by losing customers who may go elsewhere to find what they are looking for.
Another recent customer highlight for us was with a large renowned educational institution which delivers coaching to students undertaking professional exams. The organisation has currently equipped 25 learning centres with video, helping students connect with specialist tutors and coaches, and collaborate with peers without having to travel large distances.
Earlier in 2014, a very significant competitive win for us was with a major Indian bank that installed Polycom video across 100 branches. With 5000 bank branches countrywide, there is great further potential with this customer. We will also soon announce how a major electrical manufacturer has transformed the way they work with Polycom video, and expanded their video collaboration network to over 40 locations in India and globally.
How has video impacted your life?
One year on in this job, I would say because of the video culture within Polycom itself, my work-life balance is almost perfect! I work from home about two or three days a week, as I live 15km away from the office; in Mumbai traffic, this means that I waste at least an hour and a half each way, if I was to drive there every day. Several times a week, I need to take calls very early in the morning and late at night due to time differences. Working from home leaves me with a few hours in between these meetings to carry out personal tasks like coaching my son during his exams. I also did not have to relocate from Mumbai to our India HQ location of Gurgaon and disrupt my home and family. The technology enables me to stay connected with my teams and colleagues whether they are in Bangalore, Hyderabad or Singapore and interact in the same way as I would with a person sitting next to me.