The promise of hi-def video conferencing

Last Updated: Wed, Oct 03, 2012 19:51 hrs

Fertiliser cooperative Iffco’s operations are a considerable sprawl. It has 6,315 employees, spread across five mega plants, 800 marketing offices and corporate headquarters in New Delhi. When 800-900 of its employees travelled to the company’s headquarters in New Delhi each year for their appraisals, it not only resulted in a dip in the company’s productivity but also meant substantial travel and stay costs.

Many such companies grapple with the dilemma of staying in touch with their far-flung empires without incurring costs or putting a strain on their workforce.

A few years ago, basic video conferencing from services like Skype, or via smart devices, equipped with high-quality cameras and Wi-Fi capabilities, began to push the envelope on similar services used in offices. However, the quality of interaction still remains an issue across corporate India, with interrupted speech, faltering video or poor resolution still chronic problems.

In using video conferencing, enterprises have advantages under various heads
  • 30% saved on travel costs
  • 24% reduction in time-to-market
  • 27% decrease in downtime
  • 25% saved on training
  • 19% shrinkage in recruitment times
  • 24% reduction in sales-related costs

Source: A Wainhouse Research study

This is why Jayantha Prabhu, chief technology officer (CTO), Essar Group, saw business sense in investing in video collaboration tools from Polycom to connect the company’s 75,000 employees across the globe. “Video collaboration is mission-critical to the Essar Group. And Polycom’s RealPresence video solutions use as much as 50 per cent less bandwidth than competing solutions, helping us lower the total cost of ownership and accelerate return on investment (RoI),” says Prabhu.

Polycom’s video collaboration solutions are a global name in open standards-based unified communications (UC) solutions, with a market share of 50.2 per cent in the overall video conferencing endpoints and infrastructure market, according to a report by Frost and Sullivan.

A productive tool
“Realising the need to simplify, we started RealPresence Mobile that allows employees to use their tablets or smartphones to connect and collaborate face-to-face with colleagues, partners, customers, students and patients,” says Neeraj Gill, managing director (India & Saarc), Polycom. Today, the Polycom RealPresence Mobile application is available on the iPad 2, the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Xoom and on HTC and Lenovo devices.

According to Iffco’s estimates, the video collaboration solutions have helped the company achieve an RoI of 200 per cent in less than six months. In turn, it has helped save over $200,000 in travel and lodging costs during the same period. “Going forwards, we are expanding the video solutions across our marketing functions, in addition to finding effective uses and applications for the video conferencing system in the fertiliser industry to ensure an environmentally sustainable future,” adds S C Mittal, croup CTO, Iffco.

Mittal says that by being able to communicate in high-definition quality, face-to-face, without having to leave the office, employees have also been able to reduce fatigue, anxiety and stress levels that are often associated with business travel.

Just how big is the business of video collaboration? A report from Voice&Data puts the market for audio-video conferencing in India at Rs 391 crore in FY12 compared to Rs 337 crore in FY11. Similarly, a recent report by Frost & Sullivan says the video collaboration market in India grew by $83.2 million, accounting for a growth of 38.9 per cent in 2011 over the previous year. This included growth in the video-conferencing infrastructure market at 53.9 per cent, as well as endpoints market growth at 35.3 per cent.

Boom in video demand
Polycom’s close competitor, Cisco, in its recent Visual Networking Index, states that in Asia Pacific, 1 trillion minutes of video content will cross the internet each month in 2016, up from 342 billion in 2011. The company too has a strong play in the video and video collaboration markets, which together were an $8-billion business for Cisco in the fiscal year 2011. To cement a stake in new geographies, Cisco also acquired NDS’ software platform, customer segments and services model earlier this year, building its global video footprint for emerging markets.

Polycom has decided to include small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India with its customised video collaboration services. Polycom’s RealPresence Cloud delivers video-as-a-service and accelerates the adoption of video collaboration among SMBs and enterprises. “This is expected to accelerate the penetration and adoption of Polycom video collaboration solutions among SMBs and enterprises that want either a hybrid solution of both premises-based video collaboration solutions and video on demand, or a pure video-as-a-service (VaaS) solution. In India, Airtel and Tulip are already using this platform to deliver VaaS solutions to SMBs and enterprises throughout the country,” points out Gill.

Cisco, too, is following Polycom closely in terms of video offering. Cisco’s Jabber, which allows users to access high-quality video, voice, presence, instant messaging, conferencing, and voicemail — on iPad and Windows devices — has been released. O J Winge, senior vice-president and general manager, Collaboration Endpoints Technology Group, Cisco, notes, “In a world that is increasingly mobile, social, visual and virtual, individuals are dictating how, when and where they communicate and collaborate inside and outside of the workplace. Cisco is continuing to make ‘any device to any device’ a reality, while helping customers collaborate on their own terms on a range of devices that provide a rich and consistent user experience.”

The good news is that Indian corporates now have a real choice of affordable, good quality options. For instance, high definition, pay-per-use Video as a Service (VaaS) solutions from Cisco, Polycom or LifeSize provide easy access from the office, home or hotel, or via a variety of devices that can be shared with senior company executives with minimum fuss.

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