The year 1997 saw
much activities in the Indian Computer Telephony (CT) market. The evolution of Indian
voice processing market from voicemail to real CT applications, which started in 1996,
continued throughout 1997. The year also saw the much-awaited segmentation in the CT
market with companies getting more focused on their positioning. And finally, voicemail
emerged as a separate market with mass-market characteristics. On the higher end, quite a
few CT-enabled call centres were deployed successfully in India. However, unified
messaging failed to take off.
The year 1997 also saw some clear trends
emerging in the market-place. Open system-based applications are making strong inroads,
thanks mainly to Dialogic’s initiative and the small Indian technopreneurs.
After a boom phase of two years that saw
the CT and voice processing industry strongly establishing itself as a promising segment
in India, things were not so good in 1997-98, primarily because of a slowdown in the
second half of the year. The market grew by only about 37.5 percent in terms of number of
ports, as opposed to a much more impressive 56.5 percent estimated by Voice & Data
in October 1997. From a market of about 12,000 ports in 1996-97, the market in 1997-98
grew to the size of about 16,500 ports.
The reason–virtually the only
reason–for this was the cash flow problems in most organizations due to general
recession in economy. Though many users are more than convinced about the need for CT and
voice processing technologies today, the decisions have been delayed because of the
Slowdown Is In Market Growth, Not In Activities
It is a temporary slowdown, caused mostly
by the overall recession in economy. But the lean, active, and flexible CTI players are
showing their older cousins in the industry how to make the most of a difficult time.
Serious companies with long-term investments have focused on studying the user
requirement, something that they always wanted to do but never had the time. The efforts
are likely to pay off once the slowdown phase is over.
As usual, very few new users are expected
to invest in this period on CTI. A few companies in segments like IT, office automation,
and white goods have however taken the initiative. These companies are expected to invest
in call centres for bettering their customer service. In future, a few companies might
choose to supplement these inbound call centres with outbound ones for direct marketing
and sales support purposes.
Existing users of Interactive Voice
Response (IVR) and call centres who have made sizeable investments on this technology may
upgrade the system. This trend is already being observed. Users like Dialnet (solution
provider: Parsec), Sahara India (solution provider: SISL), and HCL Frontline (solution
provider: Parsec) have plans to upgrade soon. This will help the companies who work
closely with their customers and provide good and timely support. Because, normally a
decision to place the order on the existing vendor requires much less time than a decision
to change the vendor.
|Major CTI Companies In India|
On the user side, this will help the users
who have invested on open systems, the cost of enhancement in case of open systems being
incremental and according to the exact requirements of the user, rather than being in
bulks like high-end proprietary systems.
Among user segments, banking/finance are
likely to continue investing during this phase. Telecom, seen as the hottest opportunity a
year back, has now taken the back seat. But it will catch up once the industry settles
some of the problems that it is facing. Even in this period, DoT will continue to make
investments in new systems in its circle headquarters and other major cities. In the areas
where new private operators are cominglike Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh,
Maharashtra, and PunjabDoT will have to take the help of IVR and call centres to
counter competition. MTNL has already started planning for IVR for almost all information
dissemination. DoT is planning to install fully CT-enabled call centres for supporting its
National Internet Backbone (NIB) in major cities. It is likely to go for as many as 45
help-desk applications. That itself is a multi-crore opportunity. After the Internet
market is opened, almost all category A and category B ISPs will go for fax-based
Open system-based solutions are likely to
consolidate their position further. Open systems are flexible to upgradations in smaller
increments. Those users, for whom CTI is absolutely critical, but which do not have the
requisite cash to go for bigger systems, will go for open systems.
The popularity of open systems in India is
largely due to the presence of a number of small Indian companies. The Indian CTI industry
today has typically four kinds of companiesthe EPABX companies who have taken to
CTI, the IT integrators who have taken to CTI, focused medium-sized CTI companies, and the
small companies targeting the tender-driven DoT/Railways market. The first two categories
till now dominated the scene with major installations. Examples include Tata
Telecom/Lucent, Global/Nortel and Usha/Tadiran in the first category. Among the IT
companies are HCL, Wipro, Tata IBM, and Tata Infotech. The latter two have been active of
late but are doing well.
In the third category are companies like
Parsec, Voxtron, ICSS, and SISLcompanies which have taken to CTI business with
sincerity and are focused on it. All these companiesexcept SISLare totally
focused on CTI. The fourth category includes many companies which are unheard of till they
win some DoT tender and go into oblivion soon afterwards. These companies come and go. The
last two categories usually have open-system based solutions, but of late, even companies
like Wipro, Tata IBM, Nortel, and Tata Infotech are taking to open systems.
One decision by DoT is likely to affect
small developers of voice processing systems who almost entirely depend upon DoT.
According to sources at TEC, engineers at the Andhra Pradesh circle of DoT are developing
an integrated package which will include directory enquiry, fault repair service,
commercial services, and billing software. DoT is planning to use only this software
throughout the country. If that happens small companies will either have to look at other
areas where they have to strengthen their support or face extinction. And in the ensuing
scenario, spread of open systems will get a major jolt.
The victory march of
open systems will continue.
Telecom, when it
recovers, will be the biggest buyer of CTI systems.
continue as a major buyer. IT and office automation will emerge as a user of call centres.
The government will be a major
driver of technology and price.