US-based communications systems major Avaya is completely focused on enabling its entire portfolio with smart technology. It is working extensively on technologies such as conversational AI, real-time sentiment analysis, blockchain and more. \u201cAnother area we are extensively focused on is voice-based technologies and speech-enabled technologies that can be integrated with our communications platforms,\u201d says Vishal Agrawal, managing director, Avaya India & Saarc. \u201cThere\u2019s an increased interest in voice technologies in industries such as BFSI and hospitality\u2014among others\u2014and this will only increase as more use cases become apparent,\u201d he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts: Avaya has traditionally been a hardware company, but now there is tremendous shift towards hardware plus software and services. How is the company positioned to cater to this demand? With good software, you can sell good hardware; with good hardware, you can sell good software; with both, you can sell good services. These are the essential inter linkages that we have built between every part of our portfolio. We are focused on the proposition of being a true 360-degree solutions provider. Indeed, Avaya\u2019s blend of hardware and software is one of the key strengths that sets us apart from our competitors. For example, some of the cloud software providers rely on third parties for hardware, or are out of the hardware game completely. Some of the hardware providers do not have the cloud software or services, and so they are unable to fully fulfill their customers\u2019 communications needs. The strong software and services portfolio and the continued investment in hardware makes Avaya a holistic system solutions vendor that caters to these needs. With IoT, AI and ML taking centrestage, how is Avaya integrating these within the existing portfolio? We are completely focused on enabling our entire portfolio with smart technology. We are working extensively on technologies such as conversational AI, real-time sentiment analysis, blockchain and more. Another area we are extensively focused on is voice-based technologies and speech-enabled technologies that can be integrated with our communications platforms. There\u2019s an increased interest in voice technologies in industries such as BFSI and hospitality \u2014among others\u2014and this will only increase as more use cases become apparent. Indeed, we see voice as the new user interface\u2014it isn\u2019t going anywhere soon. That\u2019s shown by the research we have done. In a global survey conducted by Avaya with 8,000 consumers, over 70% prefer contacting customer service departments by phone and believe this is the most effective means of getting the best answer. Our research also shows that new, AI-based voice technologies are gaining major traction with consumers, with two in three respondents wanting chatbots to become more intuitive. Clearly, we are focused on enabling our existing and new portfolio with technology that our customers need. With voice providing to be a major part of what customers expect, we will continue to embed our platforms with the latest voice-enabled technologies that drive better customer experiences. What is Avaya\u2019s strategy moving forward in 2019 and beyond? We had a strong 2018 and we are positive about carrying this forward in 2019. Our open architecture and strong technology pipeline is an asset, and has prompted customers to take notice. At Avaya, we have recognised the shift in the market that sees customers demand more flexibility and choice. The open architecture market is expanding rapidly and it\u2019s now embracing third-party UCaaS platforms. According to Markets&Markets, the global UCaaS market size is expected to grow at a rate (CAGR) of 10.6% for the next 5 years. Given the trust that our customers have in us, we are extremely well placed to be a major part of that growth story. What are your plans for the India market and how focused are you on R&D in India? India is a very important and strategic market for us and one of the top 10 markets globally. With the drive for adopting digital technologies and the increased penetration of smartphones, India is poised to become one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world. For Avaya, India is one of the largest R&D markets; we have three key R&D centres in India. India is embracing innovation. We are currently engaged in a number of smart city projects in India, while we are also engaging with organisations such as BFSI firms, large BPOs, mobile and internet service providers, citizen-centric service providers, emergency response organizations, e-commerce companies and start-ups. We are working with the Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan governments to provide an integrated and faster emergency response time for emergency calls, and the technology specs are highly advanced for these projects. What device strategy should organisations adopt in the digital era? Customers look for devices that provide a good blend of software, services, and great hardware. They are demanding unified solutions\u2014one device which can do it all. In light of this, we recently announced the new Avaya Desktop Experience open SIP offerings to enable UCaaS providers to deliver their services through Avaya business desktop devices. These platform-agnostic devices bring new heights of hardware quality to businesses running on other UCaaS platforms. Meanwhile, our Avaya Vantage portfolio comes in response to customer demand for a mobile-like experience on the desktop. It brings the joy of mobile computing to your desktop phone\u2014and enhances productivity as a result. Our range of devices is incredibly broad now, and that\u2019s because different enterprises need different things from their device strategies. Some will be more tempted by our new device-as-a-service offering, keeping a capex down through the procurement of an inexpensive, but highly functional, range of devices\u2014perhaps a BPO call centre. Others may simply demand the most advanced collaboration hardware to improve their customer and employee experiences\u2014which you can see in the hospitality and healthcare industries. The good news is that, whatever device strategy your organisation adopts, Avaya can certainly help you realise it.