India is a land of large problems, and thus large opportunities. We have a lot of small businesses -estimates range from 1.5 crore to 5 crore which are the heart and soul of Indian entrepreneurship.The average productivity of Indian small businesses is an order of magnitude lower than in developed economies, but this is changing. It is happening because of two large trends -cloud and smartphone.
Everyone carries smartphones now and people intrinsically use cloud applications such as Facebook and Gmail.
These tools have democratised access to enterprise software technologies. In the United States, small business suddenly have the power of business intelligence and complex enterprise software delivered to them on their computers, tablets and phones.
The same is becoming available to Indian small business on their tablets and phones.
Cloud Telephony companies in India are providing a basic customer relationship management and office EPBX capability for as low as `1,000 per month to small businesses. This is the first time these small businesses are using any enterprise software. This transforms their productivity . Small businesses care about their sales. By having tight control over the conversations between the customers and their employees, they can make sure the conversations are high-quality and handled well. Every time a customer calls them, they can make sure that the call is picked, routed and they have access to call records. Once they have this data, they have the list of their customers in electronic form.
They can now use all of the interesting loyalty and engagement software to build great customer experience. This is an amazing opportunity , to have Indian small business leap-frog the modernisation process that their western small business counterparts so painfully went through in the past decade. It is a great equaliser and will have a far-reaching impact on the productivity of small businesses in India.
AROUND THE WORLD
Every country around the world recognises this. Twilio, the largest cloud telephony company in the US recently filed an IPO at a valuation of $2 billion. The press is ecstatic and customers love the technology. It required support from the US government, and it was provided, allowing a company of that size to be built in nine years. The same is possible in India. However, this requires a consistent policy framework and consistency in support for industry from regulators.
The current licensing framework for cloud telephony is incomplete and leaves many situations unexplained. While the recent initiative from the telecom regulator Trai to bridge the gap by offering a consultation paper is lauded, the situation on the ground is very different.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
A couple of days back, an official from the telecom department decided to shut down a large part of the infrastructure of Knowlarity without any notice or any consultation with Trai.In the past another cloud telephony company Exotel underwent a similar experience.
The actions have a extremely negative impact on the credibility of the regulatory framework in engaging new-age companies that expect a coherent bedrock of regulations to build their business on.
Customers of cloud telephony companies expect uninterrupted services and if there is confusion and interruption, it is very difficult for them to continue to trust cloud technologies.
It is high time that someone from government steps up and provides the necessary leadership for this industry. We need a coherent policy that answers the confusions in the current licensing regime. We need to make sure that the Trai consultation process goes through and while it is going through, the industry is not hurt by mischievous actions. We need to make sure that the licensing and policy is friendly to small and nimble technology startups as real innovations come from these future-centric companies.
Cloud telephony in India is driven by young and energetic entrepreneurs who can help fulfil the dream of Startup India. All we need is a consistent and friendly regulatory environment so that we too can build cloud telephony unicorns.
(The author is founder of cloud telephony company Knowlarity Communications)