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Our primary use cases revolve around enhancing employee engagement within organisations and elevating the overall customer and partner experience: Sathesh Murthy, RingCentral

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In this exclusive interview conducted by Express Computer, Sathesh Murthy, the Senior Vice President of Engineering & General Manager for India at RingCentral, shares insights into the company’s operations, product offerings, market penetration strategies, and expansion plans in the Indian market. With a focus on innovation and growth, Murthy provides valuable perspectives on RingCentral’s positioning, its impact across various industries, and the future trajectory of the organisation.

Tell us about RingCentral’s operations, considering it’s not widely known or visible in the Indian market
RingCentral has a rich history spanning over two decades, with its roots tracing back to the early 2000s in Belmont. Our esteemed founder and CEO, Vlad Shmunis, along with Vlad Vendrow, who we affectionately refer to as VV, laid the foundation of this company more than 20 years ago. Vlad Shmunis continues to lead us as our CEO, while VV serves as our CTO, both having dedicated themselves to RingCentral’s growth and evolution over the years.

Since our IPO a decade ago in 2013, RingCentral has witnessed remarkable evolution, particularly in response to the changing landscape of business communications. Initially focusing on Internet telephony, we’ve expanded our offerings to encompass messaging, video conferencing, and contact centre solutions. This expansion mirrors the broader trends in the industry, with video communication and contact centre services gaining prominence, especially accelerated by the challenges posed by the recent pandemic.

At its core, RingCentral’s product suite revolves around three pillars – Message, Video, and Phone, succinctly encapsulated in our MVP offering – Message, Video, Phone. This simple yet powerful framework underscores our commitment to providing comprehensive communication solutions tailored to the needs of modern businesses.

The contact centre space, in particular, has witnessed significant transformation, evolving from traditional call centres to sophisticated hubs of customer engagement. With the integration of human agents, chatbots, and virtual assistants, the focus has shifted towards enhancing customer experiences across organisations of all sizes. While chatbots have become ubiquitous in today’s digital landscape, advancements in conversational intelligence and text analytics are driving their evolution towards semantic understanding, enabling them to decipher not just keywords but the underlying intent behind customer queries. This shift towards semantic intelligence heralds a new era of smarter, more intuitive chatbots capable of delivering enhanced customer interactions and experiences.

As the industry continues to evolve, with advancements in areas like sentiment analysis, RingCentral remains at the forefront, poised to leverage emerging technologies to further elevate the communication and collaboration experiences of our customers worldwide.

Could you break down the components of what you provide, such as the platform, analytics, and AI?
Alright, let’s break it down into three layers. Firstly, there’s the core platform, initially designed as a telephony solution but evolved to encompass functionalities like connection establishment, conversation tracking, and quality metrics. This platform was originally tailored for phone usage but expanded to accommodate messaging and video as well. As we transitioned into the microservices paradigm, we modularised these common functionalities, facilitating smoother integration with new services like messaging and video.

Next, we have the three verticals, which serve as both products and solutions. Our flagship product is the MVP, a unified cloud solution that provides a seamless experience for users. This product caters to a broad spectrum of clients but is complemented by our SDK layer, enabling seamless integration within third-party applications like CRM solutions. Currently, our SDK is leveraged by over 80,000 developers, with numerous successful integrations in our marketplace.

Lastly, there’s RingSense, our next-generation AI platform, acquired from a specialised conversation intelligence company. RingSense focuses on analysing communication dynamics, extracting key insights, and providing valuable summaries and action items. For instance, it can generate transcripts and summaries of conversations, making post-call analysis more efficient, and particularly beneficial for sales teams managing multiple customer interactions.

However, it’s essential to recognise that these platforms are continually evolving, driven by advancements in AI and user feedback. We’re committed to refining our models and expanding our capabilities to enhance both customer experiences and employee productivity. Ultimately, our goal is to leverage AI not just for automation but also for more transformative use cases, such as sentiment analysis and personalised coaching, to deliver greater business value and drive innovation in the years to come.

How extensive is your penetration into the Indian market with your comprehensive portfolio of offerings?
In the Indian market, there are a couple of key factors to consider. Firstly, navigating the regulatory landscape and securing the necessary approvals can be quite rigorous. However, the good news is that this process is now largely behind us. It’s been approximately 18 to 20 months since we obtained the unified licence approval from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). With the licence in hand, the next step is to build the required infrastructure, including data centres, and establish partnerships with telecom providers such as Airtel, Jio, and Vodafone.

Currently, we’re fully prepared to commence operations in the Mumbai Metro and Karnataka regions, which were our initial focus areas. Starting somewhere allows us to test the waters and refine our approach. We’ve already obtained licences and set up the necessary infrastructure in these regions. Additionally, we’ve initiated data programs with some of our clients, allowing us to gain valuable insights and address any challenges along the way.

Our immediate priority is securing a Pan-India licence, which would enable us to conduct business across all 22 telecom circles in the country. This milestone represents a significant expansion of our operational footprint and sets the stage for further growth and development in the Indian market.

Do you currently have any customer case study available to share?
While we currently have beta customers, we are yet to have a paid customer case study. However, our sales team, including one of our leaders based in Gurgaon, is actively engaged in this endeavour. Our product, RingCentral Global Select for the Indian market, officially launched in October, marking the commencement of more intensive customer recruitment efforts. Despite December being traditionally slower, we are now two months into this cycle, and we anticipate 2024 to be the year when customer onboarding truly ramps up.
As we progress, it’s essential to expand our reach to encompass more customers, particularly in prominent cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, and Pune. Securing licence approvals from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is a crucial step in this direction, and progress is already underway.

We are currently testing the waters in Karnataka and Mumbai and aim to expand concurrently, considering that many potential customers will have setups in these cities. This expansion aligns with the broader trend of global companies establishing satellite offices and technology hubs in India. Consequently, our sales team is strategically studying this trend to anticipate rapid expansion and ensure that our infrastructure, including data centres, is adequately prepared to meet regulatory requirements such as data privacy regulations.

Which industry verticals are you primarily targeting?
When considering potential applications for our technology, several sectors come to mind. Retail is certainly a promising avenue, given the opportunities to enhance customer experiences and streamline operations. Another area with significant potential is the tech industry itself, particularly in facilitating employee communication and collaboration across different locations or hubs. However, two sectors that stand out as particularly impactful and where we’re actively pursuing opportunities are healthcare and finance. In these fields, our technology could offer substantial benefits, whether it’s improving patient care and outcomes in healthcare or optimising financial processes and services in the finance sector.

What is your go-to-market strategy for expanding your footprint beyond metro cities and engaging with more customers?
As a primarily B2B organisation, our current focus lies in excelling in B2B sales. Unlike some others that may have a B2C aspect to their pitch, our core emphasis remains on B2B engagements. While I won’t delve too far into speculative future scenarios, the strategy moving forward entails a few key steps.

Firstly, expanding our sales team is imperative. This ensures we have the necessary manpower to effectively reach out to potential clients and communicate our value proposition. Secondly, establishing a strong presence in key cities across India is crucial. It’s essential not only for sales but also for ensuring adequate infrastructure support in these regions.

Expanding into new cities doesn’t necessitate attempting to cover every aspect comprehensively right away. Instead, a focused approach is advisable. For instance, let’s consider Chennai and Hyderabad as potential expansion targets. In these cities, setting up infrastructure such as data centres and ensuring sufficient sales representation would be pivotal. This allows us to engage with potential clients in these areas effectively.
Moving forward, our focus will predominantly remain on the B2B space. Within this realm, our primary use cases revolve around enhancing employee engagement within organisations and elevating the overall customer and partner experience. These are the areas where we see significant potential for growth and impact, aligning with our core objectives as a B2B-focused entity.

Would you consider engaging with more specialised partners alongside strengthening your own sales force?
Certainly, those conversations are ongoing, but as of now, there’s nothing concrete to share in terms of speculation. However, we remain open to partnerships, whether with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) or telecom providers themselves. For instance, outside of India, we’ve established robust partnerships with AT&T, British Telecom, Deutsche Telecom, and Vodafone, among others. Similar discussions are underway here, albeit in the early stages.

Exploring partnerships with telecom providers and ISVs who may opt to white-label our product are potential avenues. These strategies have proven successful in other regions, and we’re keen to replicate that success in India. While it’s still early days, we anticipate more success stories to emerge in the coming months.
Understanding the unique dynamics of the Indian market is crucial, and while it’s a massive market with substantial IT spend projected, upwards of 24 billion by 2024-2025 according to Gartner reports, navigating it requires a tailored approach. This entails pursuing partnerships with telecom providers, engaging customers with satellite offices in India, and eventually considering direct sales in the Indian market. It’s a process that requires patience and strategic alignment, but we’re committed to leveraging our strengths to seize the opportunities presented in India’s burgeoning IT landscape.

We’re keen on expanding our engineering and innovation footprint, a goal that remains steadfast. We anticipate adding approximately another hundred members to our team this year, a testament to our sustained growth trajectory. Particularly, the past year has been exceptional, and we foresee this momentum continuing unabated. As with any company, the business angle plays a pivotal role in shaping our geographic focus. Advancements in sales this year will undoubtedly attract more executive visits, underscoring our expanding presence.

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