The US-based video and cloud collaboration company has witnessed a growth of as much as 3000% in the adoption of its flagship Avaya Spaces platform during lockdown following the Coronavirus outbreak, and believes that the recently-unveiled framework for Other Service Providers (OSP) by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) would bring in new opportunities and promote remote working technologies. In an interaction with ETTelecom’s Muntazir Abbas, Avaya India & SAARC managing director Vishal Agarwal talks on the company’s partnership with Google and Microsoft, role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and government-led initiatives. Edited excerpts.
How has been your business growth following the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown starting March end?
The outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns starting from early this year has brought about radical changes in how businesses and normal lives operate. Throughout this period, Avaya has undertaken various initiatives and prioritised continuity of business through its offerings of unified collaboration platforms to businesses of all size and shapes. During this unprecedented events, the company has empowered 2 million remote workers for more than 11,000 companies globally.
Avaya Spaces video and collaboration platform has seen a massive 3,000% growth since its launch early this year, and have delivered close to 400,000 new licenses in the same quarter as businesses moved their employees to adopt the new normal through these cutting-edge technologies. Through its strategic relationships, Avaya has helped large business process outsourcing (BPO) companies to move to a remote agent set-up. Besides offering complimentary licenses to contact center agents, Avaya has offered its cloud-based solution – Spaces for free to educational institutions and NGOs throughout the country. The company is also providing audio and video equipment to frontline health workers and medical facilities and working with the health departments and other institutions to rapidly set up emergency contact centers. We are offering a set of cloud-based communication solutions powered by Avaya OneCloud and Microsoft Azure, designed to help Indian organizations supercharge their customer experiences while contending with the need for employees to work from anywhere via our key partners VIS Networks, AGC Connect and Reddington.
What is your channel partner base? Do you plan to further grow?
Both internationally and in India, we have an ever-increasing partner base. We believe in offering solutions that help our customers meet their real business needs, and so we are continually evolving to meet what our customers need. We also expanded from a vertical approach to a solution distribution strategy that helps our partners increase their credibility and consumer relevance, while helping them develop their business and constantly adjust to what the needs of the market are.
How are you looking at business trends amid new DoT guidelines on remote working?
Recent new guidelines by DoT permanently easing the earlier temporary guidelines for the Other Service Providers (OSPs) has been applauded well by the IT sector. The new set of rules will primarily benefit the BPO sector allowing them to work from home or any remote location while putting an end to all the unnecessary bureaucratic constraints and liberalising the regulatory regime for the OSPs. Going ahead, the trends look alluring for professionals and businesses altogether. The new set of guidelines will open opportunities in the collaboration industry and push for wide-scale adoption of remote working technologies by agents and respective organisations.
Avaya has ensured business continuity and economic stabilisation by empowering OSPs around the world who are challenged with maintaining high levels of customer engagement while they adapt to remote workforce models. In India, we have offered contact center equipment to companies such as HCL Technologies, Bharti Airtel and MakeMyTrip and StarTek to move agents to remote locations. The business prospects owing to the new DoT guidelines will further only assist in boosting the current pace of digitisation and help innovate the future of workplaces.
How will the new framework provide a strong base to further accelerate digitisation in the BPO space?
The new framework will provide a strong impetus to the IT industry primarily benefiting the BPO sector. The government’s move will position India as one of the most competitive IT hubs in the world encouraging increased investment in the sector. With the coming of the new legislation in place, OSPs will no longer require investing in office spaces and related costs such as rent, electricity, etc. and other necessary registration and licenses expenditures. Furthermore, it will give the much-needed push to cater to the GoI’s mission of Digital India and allow the leaders to focus on innovative new products and solutions to further accelerate the remote working regime in the BPO sector. Moving forward, these will help the agents to transition to remote working and adapt to the new normal. Another important facet of the proposed guidelines is the creation of jobs in the BPO sector due to the relaxations.
How successful is the role of AI in contact centres as there has been a traction lately?
The prime concern for businesses has been to ensure that their customers have remained engaged and their conversations with their customers intact. And the current health crisis has only added critically to the challenges of remaining connected throughout. While also disrupting a lot, COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for the uptick of new age technologies. As traditional contact centers stand irrelevant in the face of the pandemic, AI has transformed contact centers radically. The ‘AI’ feature of the technology implies that the more it is used it learns and develops, and this is why business technology leaders are so interested in its ability to enhance customer experience in a way that is both convenient for the customer and time-saving for the company. Businesses are leveraging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Chatbots, etc. to transform traditional contact centers/BPOs into Intelligent and automated contact centers. Through the recent alliance with Google Cloud, we are transforming the contact center ecosystem digitally in the Indian market space. AI-integrated contact centers will open up to a whole lot of opportunities in the landscape to enhance customer experiences with more personalized, intelligent and insightful interactions.
What are the key state government projects that you are currently working on?
We are associated with some of the transformational projects to function seamlessly during COVID-19 outbreak such as UP DIAL 112, AP108, MH112 and MOSARKAAR. We have projects with: UP Dial 112, MP Dial 100, Mumbai, Rajasthan Dial 100 to provide an integrated and faster emergency response time to emergency calls. In Uttar Pradesh, the Dial 100 project was designed to provide integrated emergency services across the entire State on a 24×7 basis. Avaya established a centralised contact centre in Lucknow to facilitate faster response time and the ability to support more than 600 calls at any given time. Avaya worked with the UP government to build their now called UP112 emergency call centre, which receives more than 1.2 million calls per day, with 60% of the calls coming from rural areas and with an AVG 13.5 minutes response time.
Furthermore, the solution deployed is designed to provide prompt and integrated emergency services such as fire, police, ambulance, elderly help, health and women helpline through a single number ‘112’ for public safety and security across the state on a 24×7 basis which reduces the response time and can respond to multiple communications channels, including wireline, mobile, e-mail and social media. During the lockdown period, Avaya also moved the contact center agents to remote working routines by providing remote home agent solutions that enable contact centre employees of UP Dial112 to work from home seamlessly.
What is the quantum of investment you have done in India over the last five years, and your further plans? What is your current headcount?
India is a global innovation platform for Avaya and is among the top ten markets for the company at present. India is expected to continue to grow as a major market for Avaya over the next 2-3 years as it is poised to become one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world. That said, we have had a good share of achievements from within the nation. We have filed 165 patents and have a huge customer base here in India. Also, we are closely engaged with smart city projects across India. Moving ahead, BCP will continue to be one of our key focus and further create a robust ecosystem for its partners/channels to develop innovative solutions for further adoption by organizations across sectors.
Avaya has three R&D centres in India, and over 2,000 people in-country. We have filed 165 patents from the country. Apart from that, we have a huge customer base among which Bharti Airtel who is one of the largest customers for Avaya here in India. Other focused verticals in India include BFSI, e-commerce, digital services, emergency response systems, healthcare, BPOs and mid-market and commercial space.