In an interview with Manoj Gairola, Editor of TelecomTiger, Shivakumar Ganesan, CEO & Founder, Exotel shares his views about the Cloud Telephony industry trends and the market. Excerpts:
1. What is Cloud telephony and how is it is working along with traditional telecom sector for the benefit of users?
Cloud Telephony is the technology that moves your business phone system to the cloud. It is a voice and messaging service that replaces the need for the conventional business telephone system like PBX, EPBAX, etc. Using Cloud telephony for one’s business allows them to make and receive multiple calls &SMSes simultaneously, without having to invest in any additional infrastructure. Services like IVR, Call Recording, Bulk SMS, event based calling, etc. are only some among the many features cloud telephony has to offer. Quite simply put, cloud telephony is the smartest way for you to manage business calls without compromising on quality and cost. Exotel has connected 93 million people in FY 2015-16 which accounts for over 42% of the Indian smartphone user base.
Our primary aim is to ensure that businesses can interact their customers without any hassles or any worries about the infrastructure. In India, cloud telephony is built on two building blocks - telephony and the internet. The biggest engineering challenge in this for us to ensure that we provide a reliable service for the end user in spite of irregularities in both the factors mentioned above.
2. In which specific areas/sector has cloud telephony seen more traction? Are you able to comment on particular usage patterns with examples?
One of the biggest advantages of working with a player like Exotel is that we are a cloud telelphony platform. What that means is that businesses can integrate communication features like calls and SMS into their products or services using our APIs without having to build a customised solution from scratch. This also means that cloud telephony lends itself beautifully to sectors that have adapted technology no just as a way to grow their business but as the primary driver of their business model. Case in point would be sectors like cab aggregators, marketplaces, ecommerce, logistics, fintech, ed-tech, etc.
For example, in the case of cab aggregators, it becomes important to connect the driver and the passenger before the ride. But it is also important to keep the conversation within the platform, make sure no one’s privacy is violated and check back on the communication in case of any issues. All of this can be powered only by cloud telephony as it integrates with the core of their business.
3. Would you consider India as a mature market? Can you contrast the Indian vs the global Cloud telephony industry?
Cloud telephony has been around for some time now. During the early days of Exotel, we spent a lot of time in customer education. Cloud telephony, as a concept was alien. People understood things like call routeing, IVR, call recording, analytics but not cloud telephony. In today’s time, the start-up scene in India is thriving, but still, there is a lot that needs to be done. Running a successful startup is about venturing into new territories and solving problems that have not been solved before. This requires a certain kind of risk appetite. As business models have evolved, the full potential of cloud telephony is unleashed and as the market is moving towards “Uberisation” of businesses, the number of businesses whose monetization depends on successfully connecting a buyer and a seller has pushed cloud telephony to new limits.
India has a long way to go for the market to mature and have a more wide spread adoption. Services like VOIP, IP calling and an overall seamless communication experience will go a long way in helping us get there.
4. How technologies like cloud telephony can be used to reach the hinterlands?
Cloud telephony is the best suited medium to reach out to the masses. Let me explain. People in hinterlands can’t read, so SMS and newspapers won’t work but voice, especially in their language, will work as an effective engagement medium. Cloud telephony could be a big pull to reach the masses there, given the fact that engagement through the cell phone becomes cheaper than any other medium. The vision of Digital India is to give the power of technology to people with nothing more than a basic mobile phone to communicate.
For millions of children the culture of books and reading for joy in their home environment does not exist. Exotel wanted to give an opportunity for children of daily wage earners and underprivileged a chance to enjoy bedtime stories Pratham Books with the help of Exotel’s services ran a grand campaign where people had to give a missed call to a specific number and thereafter Pratham Books would call back and children could listen to a story in five languages: English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, or Telugu. Exotel created the framework to deliver the audio stories. In two-three days about 3,000 children consumed 36,000 stories.
Project Eklavya is being run by Indus Action, an organization that is committed to India’s growth and development. They aim to mobilize public resources and empower communities to solve our prevalent problems. Exotel helped Indus Action reach parents from the economically weaker sections of society by providing Project Eklavya’s with a common helpline number to which anyone can give a missed call. Any parent that wants to get more information about the RTE act or receive more guidance during the process, can give a missed call to Project Eklavya’s helpline number.
5. How Cloud Telephony is empowering the digital India vision?
The future foresees many powerful social- impact platforms heavily dependent on empowering communication and connections between communities and Cloud Telephony plays a major role in this development. One of the grand successes of PM Modi’s term is his public reach out program, Mann Ki Baat. As we all know, the program is a mega-hit with the PM discussing current issues and welcoming solutions from the general public and has a reach of over a billion people. One of the reasons that this program is so popular is that people can participate in governance by simply giving a missed call to air their thoughts. The only means to scale these kind of facilities to billions of people is through cloud telephony. I strongly believe in the fact that if Digital India wants to achieve its grand vision, Cloud telephony has to be its indispensable partner in making India shine.
6. What are the benefits of Cloud telephony over using traditional telecom service providers for business?
Some of the benefits that Cloud telephony players over traditional telecom service providers for businesses are:
Avoids hassles: one doesn’t have to worry about monitoring the health of the servers, telephone lines and taking appropriate action if there are any issues. By opting for cloud telephony, one can concentrate on their core business.
Highly reliable: The servers behind cloud telephony services are located in secure data centres. This reduces the chances of downtimes due to issues like fibre cuts, roads getting dug up, and physical outages.Exotel has an uptime of 99.94%, and this is one of the best in the industry.
Scale at will: As you grow, your phone system will grow with you. With cloud telephony systems, you can keep adding users, virtual numbers and call flows. Your call volume can increase without you having to worry about any additional infrastructure.
No Physical Servers: No physical servers are required at your office location. So, in addition to having zero server cost, you are also saving on real estate cost.
Complete Control: You can make quick changes to your system from your browser. No IT team needed anymore. Cloud telephony players such as Exotel are now making it easy for you to create IVR number call flows.Exotel’s Visual APIs allow you to build complex call flows with simple drag and drop functions.
Actionable Insights: Get key metrics, understand performance and optimise your operations with cloud telephony. Exotel allows you to get detailed reports with data including call volumes the number of calls missed, agent productivity, duration of calls and a lot more.
Make and receive calls on the go: With the workforce moving outside the walls of the office, you can now ensure they’re connected on the go and one has to no more keep their employees chained to their desks
7. What advice would you give somebody looking to on board their company to the cloud telephony?
Changing user behaviour and creating brand recall are two things that are very important factors to consider while building e-services for Indian consumers. Today, every customer expects a seamless experience over the internet and the organisations ought to keep up with the fast changing preferences of people. To meet these high customer expectations, companies must accelerate the digitization of their business processes. A technology like cloud telephony and services provided by Exotel comes handy to ensure efficacy and productivity of a company.
The services provided by Exotel are apt for those companies who want to offer their customers a seamless experience and are looking at affordable and scalable telephone service for their business communication needs.