- Cloud telephony became the buzz and caught investor interest too
- The communication technology landscape is also changing rapidly, from contact centres on the cloud to automated communication with bots
BENGALURU : The cloud communication market worldwide is projected to grow over three-fold from $1.36 billion in 2016 to $4.45 billion in 2021, according to Statista. This is not surprising, as enterprises shift to the cloud for flexibility, agility and a host of other benefits.
This is especially true of e-commerce businesses that want to connect with customers on multiple channels and contextualize their promotions. At the same time, startups targeting this booming market have to be nimble in adapting to changing needs.
“The ways in which cloud communication can be used by new-age companies continue to evolve as these businesses evolve,” says Karthik Reddy, managing partner of Blume Ventures, an early investor in cloud communication startup Exotel.
This makes it harder to create and sell new use cases because they’re not predictable. There are several moving parts in this shifting business landscape where innovations are happening.
The communication technology landscape is also changing rapidly, from contact centres on the cloud to automated communication with bots.
“Sometimes, it is hard to understand who is getting disrupted and who is disrupting. By the time an offering comes out, it has already become outdated,” says Reddy.
Just as personal calls are shifting to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)—such as in WhatsApp calls—business communication too is moving. The rollout of 5G networks around the world—with India planning an auction of 5G airwaves by January—will create a whole new universe of use cases for cloud communication. Mobile broadband bandwidth will expand so much that movies will download in seconds instead of minutes. It’s a game-changer for video communication obviously, but that’s only a starter.
“We expect billions of devices to come online due to 5G. Cars and homes are already being connected. All devices will become smart devices,” says Reddy. “This will open up a wealth of use cases and large swathes of data for startups to work with.”
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
Startups and investors alike stumble in times of rapid change—and unlikely winners can emerge. A look back at telecom innovation in India makes that clear.
The noughties were all about value-added services like ring-back tones and SMS subscriptions as mobile usage started to take off. Companies like One97, OnMobile and ValueFirst, which were able to partner with telecom operators, rose rapidly before tapering away or moving into related businesses.
SMS subscription used to be a big thing, with packages on astrology, Bollywood, cricket and devotional themes being the most popular, “the ABCD of business,” as Thiyagarajan Maruthavanan, co-founder of SaaS startup accelerator Upekkha, who earlier worked with iSpirt to help enterprise startups go global, says.
Then new players came into the picture. Cloud telephony became the buzz and caught investor interest too. But the early ventures were too constrained to evolve and grow with the emerging requirements of businesses. “Your business model was determined by the telecom operator you had to depend on for connectivity,” explains Maruthavanan. “Your fate was tied to what the operator would allow you to do.”
And yet, at a time when investor interest had waned, a bootstrapped startup like Solutions Infini came along with an SMS-based business. New regulations which made SMS cost jump several-fold forced it to diversify into unified communication with messaging, voice, and other channels. That was what new-age businesses needed, it turned out. Solutions Infini went on to merge with Ubiquiti of Italy in 2016 to become Kaleyra, which now on the verge of going public on the NYSE.