Avaya recently successfully came out of Chapter 11 / bankruptcy. The new Avaya is now looking to make greater investments in R&D and a renewed focus on its call center business. In a detailed interaction, Laurent Philonenko, Global CTO, Avaya and Vishal Agrawal, Managing Director, India & SAARC, Avaya, share Avaya’s strategy post restructuring, and highlight India’s key role in the firm’s future growth
Earlier, products were a big focus. Post restructuring, how is that going to change? What are the new product lines that are going to be added, and what are the products which are not really making sense right now?
Laurent Philonenko: We are essentially two product families – contact centers and Unified Communications. In Unified Communications, there is a lot of growth in cloud so you will see good activity in that space, and a good opportunity for players like us. There are also new opportunities in next generation devices. For example, last year, we launched a device called Vantage. Think of it as an Android platform but always on with all the tools that you will find in a traditional phone but with much more applications. It is going to be a device which is used in vertical applications. For example, in the hospitality sector, we could have customers who are using the device to be a controller for your rooms. So you have all the conditioning and lightning, but we also need communications, room service, housekeeping and emergency services. The key is it is an open device for the enterprises and that is very new. It is not going to be confined to hospitality. And the form factor itself is very interesting – it is just a pan of a glass and no buttons. So this is a very interesting device. We also recently launched Equinox meetings online which is a very competitive product in the world of video conferencing and cloud. That is a scenario which is growing very fast right now so we are in that space as well.
Post the restructuring, what is the focus going to be for India?
Vishal Agrawal: India is among the top ten markets for Avaya. India, by the sheer size of the digitization happening in the country, has a tremendous opportunity. The opportunities are in multiple areas. There is a big opportunity in startups. The government’s focus on digitization, emergency response systems, the smart cities or the helplines – all these areas present immense opportunities. The digitization of the BFSI sector is also a huge area of opportunity.
Verticals such as hospitality, healthcare and e-commerce that are using technology to redefine customer experience like the service oriented verticals – hospitality, healthcare and e-commerce, are also driving huge demand. We are increasing our sales workforce power by 20%, and we do expect this market to be aggressively growing for at least 3 years. That’s one view of India, the second is which Laurent was explaining that we have a strong R&D in India, and this R&D team has developed more than 165 patents out of India. They do more than 30% of the global R&D work. And our engagements are very deep, they go along with us to the customers. They hear the customers and take the feedback which is required for the India market. And that is a continuous advantage that we have to grow in the market. And more importantly, with the proliferation of the technology and innovation that is happening in India, it also gives us good opportunity to see different small startup organizations and the services organization with whom we can work collaboratively, invest and adopt them to kind of service the customers not only in India but globally.
So what is the big opportunity that you see out of India?
Vishal Agrawal: I think the big differentiator that we bring to the market is definitely the open architecture. We also embrace what the customer wants. As customer experience becomes more critical and it becomes omni-channel, the continuity of the communication and the flipping of the communication across the channel become crucial. On the face of it, it looks very simple, but it needs a very solid infrastructure and architecture to support and drive that.
It is easy to build a contact center solution for 5 seats, 10 seats and we see many small companies coming in. But when the complexities start building, having Omni channel, having the right security, the right transferring of the information from one channel to the other channel, using artificial intelligence on the top of it and maintaining and sustaining it – becomes a tough task. This is where Avaya’s role becomes very critical.
How are you partnering with the government?
Vishal Agrawal: When you work on projects with the government, you have to work both as a consultant as well as a vendor. I think there is a lot more appetite in the government to adopt new technologies as far as we have seen. We have done some successful implementations as well like the UP Dial 100 which is state of the art, we have done MP Dial 100 and Rajasthan Dial 100, and there are few other state governments that we are working on. The motion of the government and the enterprise is pretty much the same. The government systems are getting lot more mature; they consult the research firms; they assess different available solutions. They engage in large consulting organizations to really run their RFP processes and they are very structured. The OEMs like us who can demonstrate the value of the solution and what we can serve the citizens of the country will survive and grow.
We have run many Dial 100s. We have run Mumbai, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Dial 108 on Avaya. UP gets around 2 lakhs call per day, MP gets around a lakh, Mumbai is around a lakh again and these are big numbers. The government is no different from the enterprise. They start with the voice calling, then the more tech savvy demand multi-channel and chat bots. I personally feel the citizen services will go through the same journey the way enterprises are going through. We are going from rudimentary systems to sophisticated communication systems and they will further evolve to multichannel, Omni channel to AI. I think it is a gradual transformation journey. I don’t see a big difference between enterprises and the government. The scale is different, the speed can sometimes be faster or slower.