tech

Zoom bullish on India as video conferencing app grows in popularity

Zoom’s India story began much before it went viral in the country.

India is driving Zoom’s growth
India is driving Zoom’s growth (REUTERS)

You may not have heard of Zoom three months ago. Niche tech products, especially enterprise-centric video conferencing platforms, which are a dime a dozen, rarely grab headlines like tech behemoths such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google do.

Lives have drastically changed in the recent months with a virus running amuck - forcing millions of people around the world to be confined in their houses. Among many other things, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected our work as people are relying on digital tools to collaborate and communicate. Zoom's meteoric growth is a byproduct of the ongoing crisis.

Zoom could be the flavour of the season and there is no guarantee it will remain as popular as it is right now. We're used to such instant hits which rarely sustain. Remember Sarahah? FaceApp? Fidget Spinners? Prisma? The list is long, and users' memory and loyalty for a product is short and rare.

However, Abe Smith, Head of International at Zoom Video Communications, doesn't think there's a seasonality attached to the platform. And that Zoom is here to stay.

"We don't know how the situation will progress in terms of - will schools stay remote? When schools go back physically in session, will they be partly in classrooms and partly at home? Businesses start to rethink the possibility of having a more remote mobile workforce. Will governments continue to work in ways that are more dispersed? The trends are hard to really tell. And that's something we can't predict. Our job is to make sure that we serve the requirement and we do our best every day to deliver happiness and quality to our customers. And that's our focus short and long," Smith said in an interview to Hindustan Times.

Zoom's India story

We talked about tech behemoths earlier. Whether it is Facebook or Google, no technology giant can shy away from the reliance on India if they want to acquire a large user base. India is one of the biggest internet markets in the world. WhatsApp is the world's biggest instant messaging platform, thanks to its massive user base in India. TikTok is another example. The controversial, yet viral, application is giving Facebook run for its money and is driven by massive downloads in India.

Zoom is no exception. According to the latest Sensor Tower report, Zoom became the most downloaded non-game application in the world in the month of April. And don't be surprised - India contributed to 18.3% of its overall growth, surpassing the US' 14.3%. The app saw almost 131 million new installs which is a 60x growth from what they had at this time last year.

Zoom has been in India even before it became viral in the country. The existence, however, isn't limited to the app availability. The company has two data centers in India (Hyderabad and Mumbai). It has a total of 17 data centres globally. It also has an office in Mumbai. The India operations are headed by Sameer Raje, who previously held positions in West Corporations and Microsoft.

"At strategic and executive level, India has always been a primary market for us… we've always seen India as an incredibly unique opportunity for us to grow, in fact, very early in, before we formally entered into the market. We built infrastructure in India. So again, of the 17 global data centers, two were purposely positioned in India, one in Hyderabad and another in Mumbai and that's a collaboration with Tata Communications, which we established as a core infrastructure partner," he said.

Apart from Tata Communications, Zoom had partnered with Airtel about a year ago. Smith said that the partnership with the telecom operator helped increase adoption in India, especially in terms of free user accounts.

"…The company is very bullish on India, we're in a position where we want to lean into the market not lean out of the market. And we think that there's a fantastic opportunity in the country. And that's why we were early with infrastructure. We established core partnerships that we thought would be relevant for us. We brought industry leading leadership with Sameer Raje, established the legal entity in the country. We built our first office in Mumbai and we just think the future is really bright for India," he added.

ALSO READ: Zoom aims to grow as an Indian company, plans to hire more

"I think the same thing that we're seeing throughout the country of India is very consistent with what we're seeing around the world -- people are looking for new and innovative ways to collaborate and work together, work remotely, and so on... All of those things are very relevant," he explained.

Zoom's exponential growth has also attracted wider scrutiny around the world. The company has received criticism from all corners over the security lapses. With the platform becoming popular among the young demographic, there has been concerns around how it handles users privacy and data. Already, zoombombing has become a pop reference for the phenomenon where hackers or trolls gain access to virtual meetings and start streaming unwanted content.

In India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an advisory against using Zoom over security issues. The advisory had followed a similar Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) issued an advisory on the safety issues of the video conferencing app. Zoom scrambled to connect with the government and promised to provide requisite information.

Reiterating the security measures in place, Smith commented: "We were in collaboration, communication with the government. Our goal is to make sure that we're following policy and practices important in India and that's the spirit of that communication."

ALSO READ: Zoom admins can now disable personal meeting IDs to prevent Zoombombing

What next?

According to Smith, Zoom is currently focused on being a video communications company. This includes bringing the format to newer areas where the video communications can act as an additional layer. The company also plans to make its APIs more accessible.

"…We're very clear on our position, you know, we started with the goal of being a video communications company and that meant video on every platform that includes video on your desktop, video on your mobile device, it meant video in your room [in the room system]. So, think about a traditional office… a conference room or a hall room that's been converted to a video enabled location…," he said.