According to App Annie, the aggregated total downloads of top communication apps in India grew 40 times in the month of October 2020, compared to the same period last year
Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple have asked employees to work from home at least until the summer of 2021, with some giving the option of permanently working from home.
As weekly briefings, water cooler chats, press conferences and even classrooms took on a virtual form during the lockdown, business and productivity apps made hay. Virtual communication apps, file sharing tools and time management apps for both desktops and hand-held devices have seen increased adoption in the last few months.
According to App Annie, the aggregated total downloads of top video conference and team communication apps (Google Meet, Zoom Cloud Meetings, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Flock) across iOS and Google Play in India grew 40 times in the month of October 2020, compared to the same period last year. The number of downloads of business apps (across Google Play and iOS) grew by 85% in April-June 2020 over October-December 2019, and downloads of productivity apps surged by 235% during the same period.
Will these tools continue to see high usage post pandemic?
Advertising agency The Glitch has been using Microsoft Teams, Slack and One Drive to streamline work across its offices in Delhi and Mumbai, as well as with clients. “Ensuring that our data is stored and shared securely has become a huge priority for us. Further, executing ad campaigns remotely has pushed the boundaries of what video conferencing can achieve,” says the agency’s CEO, Pooja Jauhari.
This is why Flock, a team collaboration software, made substantial investment into the product in April this year, to develop tools that aid remote work. “We introduced the integration with Zoom to let users conduct their external meetings through Flock,” says Gaurang Sinha, director, go-to-market strategy, Flock.
A slew of new users (with a growth of 700%) has joined the platform, and existing users are using it more frequently, Sinha claims. Other than video conferencing, Flock users can share files, set reminders, create separate channels for communication and record voice notes.
Airmeet, a platform for event organisers launched last year, has already hosted more than 10,000 events this year. The platform also facilitates college activities, business events, job fairs and film festivals. The start-up managed to even raise $12 million Series A funding led by Sequoia Capital and Redpoint Ventures in September 2020.
While products like Flock and Airmeet have become crucial for some organisations, the sector is in its nascency in India. Sinha says that most of Flock’s paid users are from the US, which is the biggest market for such products.
All these business apps follow a freemium model in India. “We are able to get many people to try our product because it can be sampled for free,” says Nishchal Dua, director, marketing, Airmeet. However, it is only when companies use the paid premium versions across their offices that the moolah starts trickling in.
Flock’s enterprise plan lets companies use all the functions of the product for Rs 349 per month per employee. The fee for small- to mid-sized companies is Rs 199 per month per employee. Meanwhile, Zoom charges companies with small teams Rs 13,200 for one annual licence, while SMBs can secure one Zoom licence for a fee of Rs 17,700 per year.
The overnight transition to remote working and adapting to the new technology wasn’t easy for many organisations. Alagu Balaraman, partner & MD, CGN & Associates India, likens this shift within organisations to how people began using ATMs or buying train tickets online. Now, that remote work has become the norm for most, the challenge will be to sustain usage. “Capacity bottlenecks are a roadblock in the adoption of these services. Video conferencing needs high bandwidth; and not all Indian homes are equipped with such broadband connectivity or devices,” Balaraman points out.
Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple have asked employees to work from home at least until the summer of 2021, with some giving the option of permanently working from home. A section of the industry believes that companies that shift to remote work will save on real estate and utilities costs. For instance, a study by Global Workplace Analytics states that Sun Microsystems saves $68 million a year in real estate costs thanks to remote work.
But some, like Balaraman, believe it is “not ideal” in the long term. “Collaboration within and across teams is better when everyone works from the same space; non-verbal cues are better understood when people are together,” he adds.