As Polycom looks to target more government opportunities, the company’s collaborative technology and market presence are strongly placed to support national initiatives such as Digital India. “Improved collaboration and visual communication technology can provide skills development, introduce more virtual class rooms and extend education to rural areas, initiate remote healthcare services via telemedicine, and implement e-governance and smart city programmes,” Geoff Thomas, president, Polycom Asia, tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interaction. Excerpts:
Video conferencing is an old technology, what are the reasons for a surge in its usage in recent years?
In the beginning, one of the early value propositions around video conferencing was saving on travel cost and that still stands today. But now it’s not just about cutting cost but it is actually an enabler of driving top line results. Telemedicine or e-health is one example. I think it’s just scratching the surface of what you will see in terms of video as an enabler in healthcare industry, so that’s a big focus for us.
The other is around education, for example, distance learning. In India, if you look at the number of people in the rural communities who don’t have an access from education perspective for the kind of learning that students do in urban areas and the concept of teacher in the classroom; a lot of it is going to change with the advent of video which can connect educators or teachers with the students.
Apart from them, some of the big government initiatives like Digital India, smart cities are also key drivers. It’s not just in India, if you go to China or different markets, most of the governments in fact nearly all of the governments have big national initiatives and video is going to be an enabler of that, so it might be said that we started something very rudimentary and it’s expanding from there.
Don’t you think companies are yet to measure video’s true value?
I think that this industry has a long way to go in terms of really measuring the true ROI or value of video conferencing. Polycom’s focus is not just video conferencing but the analytics behind it. I think it’s mixed today but that’s a massive area and once companies are able to get real time rich data back on how their video statistics is being used, that’s going to take it to a whole new next level.
Do you see Indian businesses increasingly incorporating video conferencing in their operations?
Yes we do, and certainly if you look into the Indian operations of Polycom, this is one of our highest performing businesses in the Polycom world, that’s not just in Asia Pacific but global. I think it speaks of the fact that video usage is exploding and I think in many ways it’s still just scratching the surface. One of the data points that you hear people in Polycom quote is that there are 50 million huddle rooms in the world and only 4-5% of them today are video-enabled. In India, enterprise and government customers are smart, they don’t do things just for the sake of doing it, they evaluate things rigorously, they move forward only if they see a clear ROI.
What is growing—room-based systems or video conferencing on mobiles and tablets?
It’s actually all of those. Polycom has solutions from the mobile device all the way through to the board rooms to the huddle rooms. Video is making its way into more spaces and rooms. We have a thriving voice business growth as well especially in India.
Have the costs to use video collaboration come down?
Absolutely, they are coming down. Our average selling prices (ASP) are coming down in the industry, so in some markets you will see there is unit growth but the ASP has been coming down.
How important is India market for you?
Strategically it’s very important; we have approximately 650 engineers today so operations play a more important role than sales for us. We have engineering centres in Hyderabad and Bangalore. Recently, we announced the opening of the third R&D centre in Gurgaon. Most of the voice engineering globally happens in India and now, we are seeing more of the video infrastructure engineering happening here. From a sales perspective, India is the second largest market in Asia Pacific behind China.
India is now moving ahead of markets like Japan and ANZ in terms of their total contribution to Asia Pacific revenue for the company. The last piece and very important piece of the puzzle is manufacturing in India and that is something that we are in talks now with potential contract manufacturers.
How do you see the business coming from the government?
Very good. In fact that’s one of the good areas of growth for us especially the large projects, because the scale at which the government provides cannot be provided by enterprise or any other. But they are slow projects, it takes time, but the way multiple projects that are underway and the various projects we have won, we are extremely happy.