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Unified Communications (UC) has always been the tool of the large enterprises but with the market slowdown and the growth of the SMEs, it had also come to the space of the SMEs. But the fact is that the vendors are not able to understand the market as yet and thus have not been very aggressive also. BY SANJAY MOHAPATRA


f one goes by the dictionary meaning of Unified Communications (UC), it is the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, telephony (including IP telephony), video conferencing, call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). The evolution of the UC has been gradually over a period time. UC is not a single product, but a set of products that provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. For the lay man, it is nothing but managing communications and getting quick and timely response. The business turnaround entirely depends on the response of the communications. A delayed communication or collaboration can incur huge amount of revenue loss. Therefore, UC is as critical to SMEs as it is to the large enterprises.

As per Frost & Sullivan study, the total size of the UC market in India will grow more than $1 billion by the end of 2010 and expected to grow manifold in coming times also. Similarly, as per Dell’Oro Group, despite pockets of weakness reappearing, the unified communications market will expand significantly in 2010 as existing vendors continue to invest and expand their software offerings and Microsoft begins to actively push Lync. When the overall UC market is growing at the CAGR of 7.9 percent, the individual components of unified communications are already witnessing healthy double digit growth number. For example the audio video conferencing market is estimated to grow at 60%, e-mailing and IP telephony is growing at 20% and 30 percent CAGR. In this scenario, globally SMEs play major role in the growth of UC market. But in India the market is yet to pick up because they face a lot of challenges. The first and foremost is they

have budget constraints and they think too much about interoperability. Secondly, the UC vendors have not been much focussed on the Indian SME market. Adil Doctor, Director SMB Sales (India), Avaya India, says, “Since, SMEs have limited resources they are gradually exploiting the benefits of Unified Communications to help increase efficiency, productivity, and sales. However, SMEs or companies with up to 999 employees in the Indian subcontinent benefited the most from Unified communication.” According to a survey by Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, Inc. SME in India market spent around US$48.8 million on unified communication (UC) in 2009. Majority of this includes enterprise IP telephony, applications like telepresence, mobility, conferencing and collaboration are still used to a limited extent by organizations and therefore comprise only 10 per cent of the market.


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“AS SMES HAVE LIMITED RESOURCES THEY ARE GRADUALLY EXPLOITING THE BENEFITS OF UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS TO HELP INCREASE EFFICIENCY, PRODUCTIVITY, AND SALES.” ADIL DOCTOR, DIRECTOR SMB SALES, AVAYA INDIA Asheesh Pandia, Manager Communications, Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEN India), says, “UC is precisely as relevant as ‘costcontainment’, ROI or productivity to SMEs, as it is to the large enterprises. Specifically all those verticals where the resource size is bigger, travel OPEX is higher or communications is process critical, they need UC more than others. Also, categories with proven needs and interest with IT/ ITES, BPO, Petroleum, Manufacturing, Banking & Finance, Healthcare and Professional Services need UC.” “UC clearly offers profitability, savings, improved decision making, better collaboration and mobility to them. Although pure IP adaptation is seen more in Greenfield projects so far, overall, we can see quantifiable growth. Adaptation is rising with the awareness and developments in security. At this rate, the 100% growth dreams over next three years sound real,” he added. In its February 2009 report, “Market Overview: Sizing Unified Communications”, Forrester also predicts that “companies will deploy enhanced UC capabilities to about 60 per cent of employees in functions that will benefit most from embedding communications features like wireless and video directly into their business applications. Minhaj Zia, National Sales Manager, Unified Communications, Cisco India and SAARC, says, “Indian SMBs are growing and adding more business partners nationally and internationally. With many of them also opening new branches, networking will play an important role in keeping employees connected. According to a Frost & Sullivan study, currently, India leads the SAARC region’s UC market in terms of total spending and better overall awareness of UC. India has a good potential for growth of UC applications as demonstrated by the CAGR of 7.9 per cent during the period from 2008 to 2015.” He added, “The SMB-potential for UC is tremendous as UC offerings span across budgets

and requirements. The bouquet of UC offerings, currently available in the market, is so versatile that any organization, large, medium or small, can find technology that best suits both, its needs and budget. Interestingly, according to a NASSCOM report, approximately 50-60 per cent of IT spends in the country is expected to come from the flourishing SMB segment.” Clearly, there is a huge market waiting out there to be tapped and companies are focused on addressing it. However, in order to effectively tap this segment, it is important that vendors develop customized solutions, which offer a cost-effective and easy to deploy alternative. Indian SMBs are looking at UC as a low-cost tool to communicate effectively with customers and suppliers as well as


facilitate communication across multiple branch locations. It’s important that SMBs are shown how, by streamlining communication infrastructure, they will be able to find smarter ways to cut travel costs maximize operational efficiency and improve business & customer strategies. Conferencing and collaboration tools such as video, audio, web conferencing and instant messaging will account for a majority of the total UC spending. As per Minhaj with the expansion of Unified Communications from the enterprise space into mid-level and smaller organizations, a growing number of SMEs are gradually exploring how Unified Communications has the potential of increasing efficiency, productivity, and sales. As unified communications applications become more prevalent in the extended workspace, more organizations are realizing the associated benefits. Results documented by Sage Research demonstrate a multitude of benefits - both in terms of employee time savings and financial savings. Organizations using unified communications clients saved an average of 32 minutes daily per employee because presence technology enabled staff to reach one another on the first try. Use of softphones resulted in an average savings of $1,727 per month in cell phone and long distance charges. Mobile workers also saved 40 minutes each day, enjoyed greater business communications convenience, and generated annual productivity gains of 3.5 days per year through business continuity impact. Organizations using unified messaging reported that employees saved 43 minutes per day from more efficient message management while mobile workers saved 55 minutes per day. Companies using integrated voice and Web conferencing reported a 30 percent reduction in conferencing expenses (by making integrated conferencing capabilities available in-house and on-network) and an average savings of approximately $1,700 per month in travel costs basis the Sage report. Unified business communications applications not only facilitate productivity improvements for employees wherever their work takes them, they can also enhance the way in which all employees communicate. More specifically for SMBs, the biggest USP of opting for UC solutions is the cost savings that they present in terms of travel, communications, etc. Many SMBs also appreciate that enhanced geographical collaboration that comes with the adoption of UC. For example, CoStar has made a significant investment in a broadcast-quality video conferencing system from Polycom to connect 3,000


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CoStar workers in the US and abroad. They’ve worked hard to build out their network -- dealing with bandwidth allocation, traffic shaping and end-user training -- to keep users satisfied with and using the system. According to CoStar’s Sergio Soto, “When we first started with video conferencing a few years ago, we simply wanted a way to reduce travel costs for our sales team. Now we have developers and researchers on both coasts that use our video conferencing rooms eight hours a day.” Video has helped them cut $4-$5M in travel costs. Neeraj Gill, Managing Director, India & SAARC, Polycom, says, “SMEs have always faced an uphill battle when competing with larger, more established companies. The challenge is even more daunting in the current economy of slower business growth, reduced sales opportunities, and sometimes lower revenues. SMEs are turning to these solutions because they can help them Improve productivity, Higher return on investment (ROI), Enhance their corporate image, Make better decisions faster, Reduce costs, etc. Company-wide Communications,Vendor/Supplier Relationships ,Employee Training/Distance Learning etc are few more points for which SMEs need the UC solutions.” The other vendor of UC is NEC, which is present in India since 2006 and among other products, the company has a strong foothold on UC space. Ravinder Raina, Country Head – Private Network Solutions, NEC India, says, “In the post recession scenario, Unified Communications is fast emerging as a business necessity. Large organizations and SMBs have become optimistic about unified communications and use it for integrating communication tools with real-time business processes. Over the years, unified communications has helped in easing communication hassles and now, even SMEs have started to realize these advantages.” He added, “Unified Communications has come a long way from a simple unified messaging inbox for email, voice and faxes, to enhanced mobility, multi-modal mashups of various forms of communications. Though, the market for UC technologies is still at its infancy. Currently, the UC market in India stands at $549 mn, while $321mn comes from enterprise telephony that includes 17% share of contact center applications, 11% email and messaging, 10% tele-presence and conferencing while 1% comes from mobility, which is still a long way to go.” Similarly, Business Octane is another player who contributes large to UC space through its large presence in the telepresence space. Sanjay Bansal, Chairman of the Board & Managing Director, Business Octane, says, “Immersive

“SMES ARE TURNING TO THESE SOLUTIONS BECAUSE THEY CAN HELP THEM IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY, HIGHER RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI), ENHANCE THEIR CORPORATE IMAGE, MAKE BETTER DECISIONS FASTER, REDUCE COSTS, ETC” NEERAJ GILL, MANAGING DIRECTOR, INDIA & SAARC, POLYCOM Telepresence is gaining momentum and has a huge potential in India. The SME market in India is growing tremendously. The SME segment is already a heavy user for virtual collaboration technologies. The Immersive Telepresence Suites available in the marketplace are majorly suitable for large enterprises given the financial bandwidth and quantum of usage in such enterprises. However, these factors differ for the SME segment where the demand will be driven by such innovations that can replicate in the most effective manner as possible the experience of immersive telepresence at reduced costs to vindicate the investments being made.”


He added, “Business Octane has gone ahead in terms of innovation with its customized range of Immersive Telepresence Suites & Solutions for the SME segment that will help these enterprises benefit from a faster ROI. We had recently introduced CollaboratorPOWERMAXTM an affordable immersive telepresence collaboration suite that offers media-rich, immersive dynamic telepresence experience. The customized suite creates a meeting experience over telepresence which is as effective as meeting face-to-face with distant participants with high definition studio quality video and high definition stereo spatial audio, together with near actual physical sizing and natural eye contact.” The company has advanced video collaboration solution: AltraCOLLABORATOR that also caters to the SME segment; it is a customizable collaboration solution to be retrofitted in existing video meeting rooms. Sanjay Manchanda, Director-Microsoft Business Division, Microsoft India, says, “In today’s fast evolving competitive global market, SMBs need cost-effective technologies that allow flexibility and adds value to their organization. As an initial step towards adopting a UC solution, SMBs are increasingly turning to Software + Services solutions to meet the needs of their businesses. Keeping these changing trends and requirements in mind, Microsoft announced the launch of Microsoft Online Services last year in India that will help fulfil the communication and collaboration needs of these small businesses. This suite combines services such as email, ability to chat, work together simultaneously on documents, have a meeting online and maintain a common calendar at a cost-effective price with flexible payment options” The online services of the company ensures reliable email communication, work and collaborate


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“BUSINESS OCTANE HAS GONE AHEAD IN TERMS OF INNOVATION WITH ITS CUSTOMIZED RANGE OF IMMERSIVE TELEPRESENCE SUITES & SOLUTIONS FOR THE SME SEGMENT THAT WILL HELP THESE ENTERPRISES BENEFIT FROM A FASTER ROI. SANJAY BANSAL, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD & MANAGING DIRECTOR, BUSINESS OCTANE faster with a common library of all documents at one location, engage and ask for opinions using media-rich presentations and option to switch video and audio with multiple parties and find the right colleague quickly and chat on messenger, audio or video. From the vendors perspective, Siemens is very focused on the SME space. As Asheesh says, “We highly focussed on it with a comprehensive portfolio of exclusive UC offerings for this segment. SEN has a track record of consistent product and solution innovation for small and medium businesses. Moreover, our marketing and service/support are aligned rightly to get us an edge on SME space.” SEN provides platforms that best suit smaller business - be it integrating unified communications functionality into Microsoft Outlook, launching conferencing from desktop or using existing infrastructure, such as analogue telephones or entry phones. SEN communications systems and platforms support small businesses with up to 500 employees. SEN OpenScape Office is the industry’s first UC application designed specifically for small- and medium-sized businesses, HiPath 1100 is designed to give highperformance telephony to small/medium sized businesses with up to 140 users and HiPath 3000 is our flexible unified communications platform that scales from 20 to 500 users. The latest OpenScape Office MX is an all-in-one, unified communications appliance built upon reliable, secure, serviceable, and manageable OpenSmart architecture with network connectivity that supports upto 150 users. Among Siemens Enterprise Communications other offerings are OpenScape Office Contact Center, Network Infrastructure & Security portfolio and a whole range of voice/ data/video products and solutions.

Similarly, Cisco also takes SMBs very seriously. Cisco’s SMB division customizes networking solutions. These products and solutions are under the umbrella solution-packs of Cisco Small Business Pro, Cisco Smart Business Communication System, backed by a host of service & support, and financing offers. Channel presence and technical support. Cisco qualifies businesses with less than 100 PCs as


Small businesses. Adil says, “Looking at the current trends, IP based systems like SIP; IP PBX and telephony systems are gaining ground. Avaya offers a platform specifically tailored for SME needs, such as Avaya IP Office.” Avaya IP Office is simple yet sophisticated platform which can also scale to provide UC & CC features. SMB customer can start small and add application later as they grow. He adds, “Avaya is the worldwide leader in the SME market, with leadership in both revenue and line share. With Avaya IP Office 6.1, the company accelerates unified communications and contact center technologies in the SME market, helping SMEs compete more effectively, but in a cost-conscious manner.” As per Sanjay, Business Octane’s immersive telepresence collaboration suites and customized collaboration solution are equipped with a user interface that allows for simple and elegant use of all the functionalities. All the immersive telepresence collaboration suites and specific advanced video collaboration solution incorporate a new revolutionary user interface SimpliUSE+ that incorporates TeleconnectWIZARD for connecting multiple locations with extreme ease of usage and without any external help. In addition, Business Octane’s Immersive Telepresence empowers users to collaborate seamlessly with other communication applications. Meeting participants whether on audio, desktops, and video conferencing sites can seamlessly collaborate with the company’s immersive telepresence suites. As per him, the return on investment with our immersive telepresence suites is so compulsive that companies can start reaping returns on their investment within 3 to 6 months. On the other hand, Polycom is farming up a strategy specifically aimed at the SME segment. As a part of this strategy Polycom has recently appointed a global head for the SME segment. The company provides a wide-range of desktop, wireless and multimedia communication solutions for small and medium enterprises. For example, Polycom SoundPoint IP family of phones leverages the capabilities of SIP-based VoIP networks to deliver breakthrough voice quality and advanced features that make calls more efficient and productive. Polycom SoundStation Conference Phones are the industry standard for clear productive conference calls. Similarly, Polycom’s recently introduced QDX 6000 is the first videoconferencing product of its kind to address the cost-conscious SME segment that at the same time seeks ease of use and high quality. However, the biggest challenge the SMEs today face isn’t so much relevant to cost, but the


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complexity of IT. The interoperability is no more relevant now as most the vendors have addressed the issue with open standards based solutions. The lack of awareness and value perception is one of the key roadblocks to SME IT adoption. And, these challenges can only be mitigated by the aggressive engagement of partners to play a consultative role to the customers. Some partners have already understood the value proposition some are not. For example GoIP Global Services is one of the channel partners of multi brands and understand the market very well. They must have gone through gruelling sessions and have acquired the knowledge hard way. Shiv Sharma, Director - Strategy & Alliance, Go IP Global Services, says, “Unified Communications (UC) has emerged as an important milestone in the evolution of enterprise communications. UC seeks to break down the communications silos in the enterprise and add collaboration functions. Using a different tool for each communications mode (phone, fax, and email) hinders productivity, wastes time, and causes frustration. Business users no longer want to juggle multiple devices and phone numbers, multiple message stores, and multiple directories when instead they can access multimedia communication and collaboration tools in a single interface on the desktop. UC breaks down barriers and integrates communication and collaboration tools, making them more easily accessible and saving significant time and resources.” He adds, “UC solutions, such as Microsoft Lync Server 2010 typically combine several traditional communications functions (including presence, instant messaging, real-time voice and video communications and unified messaging) into an integrated, unified solution. UC can improve productivity, accelerate information transfer, and reduce costs. UC solutions, such as Lync Server 2010 and Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging, can also replace traditional PBX and messaging systems in remote office locations.” Cisco’s SMB market strategy involves helping customers create a sustainable competitive advantage, improve their operational efficiencies, increase their employees’ productivity, and ultimately boost their returns and profitability. The strategy includes focusing on new customised SMB products/solutions and financing schemes like the Easy Lease program, and the 0% finance offering for SMBs. To increase awareness of its products and programs among these businesses, Cisco will continue to invest heavily in partner enablement and innovative marketing initiatives such as the Network on Wheels and the Sales and Marketing Services Organisation. Cisco is developing domain specific solutions


to help SMB customers in each sub-vertical, which will help them plan, design and operate business critical networks more efficiently. The Company has also launched a small business partner profitability program. Cisco also makes available a lot of product literature and support material to partners to support their sales efforts. In fact Cisco has a separate division called the Sales and Marketing Support Organisation (SMSO) that takes care of the marketing collateral needs of the channel partners. Similarly, Avaya in India has been moving towards a High-Touch, channel centric (HTCC) sales model. They now have two national level distributors in Redington and Bharti Teletech helping the company reach out to the SMEs across the country. These distributors further sell to a large set of System Integration (SI) partners, across geographies in India & SAARC. The company has a fantastic Channel Partner Program called “Avaya Connect”, which helps SI partners take advantage of enhanced technical and marketing benefits. This in turn helps them build capability on Avaya Technologies and serve customers better. The company is gung ho about 2011 and has a slew of marketing initiatives in the pipeline, one of which is already rolled out. That is the 6 city Experience roadshows to showcase the integrated product roadmap and Avaya technologies to the customers and partner community. The company is investing heavily in the channel partners, by way of partner enablement, Demo Gear, Ex-Stock product availability, Solution bundles, Toll free Support line for Pre-sales & Post-sales, Partners Rewards & Rebates. Avaya has ambitious plans on marketing online, print, road shows for SMB partners who are certified and invested in Avaya. SEN’s indirect channel structure is extensive and so is its reach. The company has over a hundred partners with pan-India presence, including tier II cities. The company has also an excellent

partner program that focus on their empowerment in terms of knowledge - trainings & certification, engagement - partner communication, presence & messaging - marketing and branding support, references and rewards & recognition. On global level, the company has programs like ‘Go Forward’ that are meant for channel empowerment and recognition. Polycom is also working on a strategy to reach bigger number of SME throughout the country for which they are appointing more channel partners. They have 3 distributors and more than 50 channel partners spread across India. The company will soon appoint some more channel partners to reach out the wide spread SMEs in India. By first quarter of 2011, Polycom will launch “Polycom Choice Programme” for its channel partners, which will encompass certification, growth and defining the channel partners. NEC’s channel network for PNS (Private Network Solutions) is pretty strong including the names like Enkay Technologies, Syntel and Intellicon. Very recently they have tied-up with Avaya Global Connect Networks as its national distributor for the PNS solutions.

Finally… The entire assortment of opinion says that most of the vendors are ready with SME solutions and they have addressed the pricing and interoperability issues with due care. The only thing they are struggling waiting is the educating the customers about the utility and R0I of the UC solutions. This is surely a challenge and the large vendors should take the foot forward by engaging the customers in various platforms explaining them about the benefits, which will include aggressively engaging with the partners. Another trend - hosted communication services or cloud services - is also picking up in the market which is very much relevant to the SME market and it is waited to be seen how the things are panning out. But the sentiment is UC is high with the SMEs.


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