Necessity, not a Luxury

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

FY 2007-08 has seen videoconferencing move beyond the corporate sector to

government, judiciary, distance learning, entertainment, and telemedicine. There

has been an increased use of videoconferencing systems for interviewing

candidates, interaction with relatives settled abroad, reviews and meetings,

product launches, press conferences, and for auditioning actors-connecting any

two people separated by any distance. This movement consequently is due to the

reduction in prices for hardware and bandwidth, and also awareness of the

technologies that have spread like wild fire.


As organizations become more diverse in business applications, acquisitions

and mergers become more common, and multi-national work forces become the

standard, decision makers are looking for ways to make communication among their

knowledge workers easy.

Collaborative technologies enable business partners to easily switch back and

forth from Web, video, and audio conferencing to see and hear each other, and to

share documents and information in real-time.


Today, networks are becoming increasingly scalable and enterprises are

realizing the benefits of having applications on the network. The real impact of

videoconferencing technology can virtually be realized when the user's

experience is close to natural face-to-face meeting. TelePresence, in this

respect, has already started revolutionizing room-based videoconferencing


At the hour, India stands as one of the biggest markets for videoconferencing

solutions. Enterprises are increasingly becoming aware of the need to compete on

a worldwide basis, to strengthen corporate partnerships, and to improve

productivity for employees while maintaining low costs. These are the primary

driving forces for the deployment of videoconferencing and collaboration tools.

Videoconferencing and other rich media applications speed the communications

process and enable enterprises to make better decisions in less time. Savvy

businesses understand that collaboration solutions can improve their competitive

position by enabling dispersed teams to work together more efficiently, by

providing a richer and more intimate communications environment for customers,

partners, and prospects, and by making training and e-learning more convenient,

effective, and less costly. Also, focus on making organizations more “green” is

driving growth in video conferencing.


Key Verticals

Major verticals that have adopted this technology are organizations in the

IT/ITeS, BFSI, retail, and education segment. In addition, we're also seeing the

establishment of models where high-end conferencing services using technologies

such as TelePresence will be offered on a pay-per-use basis.

An interesting vertical where this technology is gaining ground is the

government. There is need to improve the decision making process in the

government sector. Chief ministers are reviewing their pet projects with the

district administration directly using this simple yet effective technology.

This brings in better transparency and accountability from the administration.


Polycom continued to enjoy the leadership position with 53.5% market share,

and total revenues of Rs 76 crore. Polycom got major deals from Reliance

Industries, Airtel, and RCom. Government verticals that contributed hugely to

Polycom's revenue were SWAN projects in West Bengal, Bihar, Himachal Pardesh,

Haryana State Judicial Reforms, SAIL, and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In FY 2007—08 Cisco has provided TelePresence solutions. Some of their

customers for TelePresence include large corporates like ANZ IT, Yahoo, etc. In

addition, Cisco also signed an agreement with CII and Tata Communications, where

pay-per-use centers would be set up within CII's facilities for the benefit of

its members. These centers would also be added to a larger network of centers

that will be established by Tata Communications across the country.

Aethra had also made significant inroads into the major vertical markets such

as the banking sector, government, defence, and private enterprise sectors, in

addition to its growing presence in the SME's and corporate sectors. Aethra

bagged major orders from the banking vertical in India. Its products have now

been installed in numerous large national banks including the Reserve Bank of

India, Canara Bank, Indian Bank, UCO Bank, Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, and

Bank of Maharashtra.


Webex, a small player in the audio-video segment, bagged orders from hi-tech,

BPO, pharma, and manufacturing segments.

Challenges at Home

Despite its inherent technological and cost advantages, videoconferencing

over converged network faces certain challenges that impede its growth. In

India, the biggest are regulatory restrictions imposed by the Indian government

and interoperability issues that result due to a lack of standardization.

Moreover, there is low awareness on the business benefits of conferencing

solutions that limit the uptake. Factors like cost of ownership, maintenance of

infrastructure, and the general perception about videoconferencing as an item of

luxury could possibly affect the growth of this market.


At present, most enterprises connect via ISDN. However, Internet-based

connections are increasing in popularity and myriad public rooms have come up in

India that provide videoconferencing over IP networks. Bandwidth issues at the

backend need to be addressed to ensure that full benefits of videoconferencing

can be availed.

Fortunately, broadband is fast becoming all-pervasive in India and looking

ahead, IP-based networks will play a critical role in advancing the broadband

penetration in the country. Bandwidth availability and the price of bandwidth

will also be driving the adoption of videoconferencing. India is a growing

economy, and there is immense competition among companies. Becoming more

productive at lower costs, shorter time-to-market, and being able to reach

people are pertinent focus areas for companies to gain a competitive edge, and

these requirements are driving adoption of videoconferencing in the country.

One of the perceived challenges for videoconferencing would be the adoption

of other collaborative communication tools by corporates. In India, bandwidth

availability and the ability to provide last mile connectivity is a challenge in

smaller towns, given the slower rate of adoption and development. The other

issue facing this adoption is the mindset of the user.


Globalization is happening fast and communication technologies are helping

eradicate geographical boundaries. Also, in the coming year, videoconferencing

will not just be another technology, it will become a necessity.

Videoconferencing has long served as a general purpose, or horizontal meeting

tool. Hence, a wide range of industries and government agencies for business

meetings use videoconferencing. Videoconferencing has also been an important

component of distance learning with kindergarten to 12 and higher education

institutions, enabling students to benefit from remote instructors and shared

access to experts and specialized programs. In the past few years,

videoconferencing has also moved into many interesting small and large niche

areas such as:

First responders: Mobile and ruggedized video systems enable police, fire,

and medical emergency crews to relay vital information in real time.

Telemedicine: Doctors can consult specialists such as surgeons and cancer

care physicians to speed decision-making. Patients unable to attend remote

clinics, too sick to travel, or under long-term care can visit nurses and

doctors from the comfort of their homes.

Manufacturing: Mobile videoconferencing systems enable remote experts to

diagnose problems on the factory floor quickly and more accurately.

Banking and Financial Services: Video enabled kiosks enable customers to talk

to financial specialists about retirement plans, mortgages, education loans,

etc, while banking institutions can leverage specialists across multiple regions

and large geographies.

Telejustice: Videoconferencing is used in many different parts of the legal

systems, enabling arraignments of dangerous prisoners without the risk and

expense of moving them into the courtroom; allowing judges to preside over

distant courtrooms, and enabling deposition of distant witnesses and experts.

Cultural integration: With a raft of mergers and acquisitions taking place,

acquiring companies are using videoconferencing to help integrate acquired

personnel and teams into the new culture and environment. Systems are often

deployed in hallways and cafeterias to encourage employees to have “water

cooler” type chat sessions with their new colleagues, rather than just through

formal, scheduled video meetings.

Telecommuters and tele-workers: Video-enabled communications enables

telecommuters and other remote workers to be well connected with their managers

and to feel less away from the center of activity.

Sandeep Budki