The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented economic upheavals across the globe. What started as a small news item about an epidemic in a Chinese city soon turned into a full-blown pandemic in a span of just a couple of months. To illustrate: the World Health Organization (WHO) got the first whiff of a novel form of pneumonia around the end of December 2019; month-long investigations led the WHO to declare COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020; and finally on March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Governments worldwide went into frenzy and took some urgent steps to contain the spread of the virus, which included lockdowns and social distancing. Economies came to a grinding halt, industries went into turmoil, and revenues plunged.
An interesting outcome of these measures was seen in the corporate world, where companies have been trying to cope with the new realties created by the pandemic, in the form of a global “work from home (WFH)” experiment. With companies scared of becoming breeding grounds for the coronavirus, majority of them started providing WFH facilities to their employees. This sudden turn of events gave an impetus to an already popular technological tool known as ‘video conferencing’. To be sure, the market for video conferencing was growing at a remarkable rate even before the pandemic. For example, the global video conferencing market size stood at USD 3.02 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach USD 6.37 billion by 2026 at 9.8% CAGR, according to Fortune Business Insights™. The upsurge in the demand for teleconferencing solutions has augured well for companies operating in this market. It would be instructive to check out how these players are capitalizing on this unique opportunity.
Zoom Reports Skyrocketing Sales and Customers
Zoom Video Communications, Inc., the communications company based in California, announced in May 2020 that its sales in year’s second quarter are expected to reach USD 500 million, with the company forecasting an overall revenue generation of USD 1.8 billion in 2020. As April ended, Zoom’s total user base had touched 300 million, jumping sharply from just 10 million in December 2019. With booming sales, the company is continuously expanding its services and products. For example, in July 2020, Zoom released an innovative, all-in-one appliance called the DTEN ME under its Zoom for Home category. Costing $599, the device is designed to enhance the video conferencing experience of professionals working from home. It also features an interactive touch display, a high-quality microphone, and three wide-angle, high resolution cameras.
Cisco Webex Showcases Exponential Growth
The California-based web conferencing innovator, Cisco Webex, announced in June 2020 that in April, it supported around 500 million participants on its video conferencing platform, generating 25 billion meeting minutes during the entire month. Compared to its pre-pandemic numbers, Cisco now boasts of volumes 3 times those. Furthermore, to ensure safety and security of the data being shared on Webex, Cisco has integrated eDiscovery, Legal Hold, and data loss prevention (DLP) retention capabilities to Webex Meetings. The company is also diversifying its offerings, expanding into the field of telemedicine through the addition of Epic, an online medical record service.
Microsoft Teams Releases Frequent Updates to Keep Users Engaged
Microsoft Teams has been constantly upgrading its teleconferencing platform to ensure its customers an improved experience. In July 2020, for instance, Teams introduced its ‘Together Mode’, wherein the software will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a live, virtual avatar of the user and place colleagues together in a virtual space, providing a near-perfect substitute to face-to-face meetings. Similarly, the latest Teams update on Android and iOS also saw the addition of a variety of new features. For example, on iOS, Teams now allows users to invite to meetings through a link other participants, whether they an account or not.
Entry of Regional Players to Usher in Exciting Times
Seeing the soaring success of these companies, some telecommunications giants in India are also jumping on the video conferencing bandwagon. For example, Reliance JioMeet marked its entry into the teleconferencing space in July 2020, offering its services to enterprise users and regular customers alike. Meanwhile, Airtel announced its partnership with Verizon’s to bring the latter’s cloud-based video conferencing solution, BlueJeans, to India. However, the platform will be available only for enterprise clients. Together, the two organizations are aiming to capture the escalating demand for virtual meets in the burgeoning corporate sector in India, thereby competing with global teleconferencing giants such as Zoom and Google Meet.
Will the Hype Last Once the Pandemic Abates?
While video conferencing has provided an optimal replacement to physical meetings, it must be remembered that the uptake of this technology is being driven by the crisis situation spawned by the pandemic. But what happens once the pandemic starts abating and a vaccine has been developed? What will be the scenario once lockdowns are fully lifted and workers are allowed to sit in offices again? Will this work from home experiment prove to be a success, given its various benefits, or will employers prefer to revert to the traditional work culture? With uncertainty looming large, these questions should be best left unanswered for the moment.