Zoom seeks Indian govt nod to introduce VoIP service


US communications platform Zoom Video Communications Inc. has sought approval from the Indian government to introduce its Zoom Phone service in India as it seeks to challenge rivals Microsoft and Cisco in this market.

“We are working on a feature called Zoom Phone, which has been very successful globally. We are working through a regulatory process to get it launched in India,” said Ricky Kapur, head of Asia Pacific for Zoom, in an interview.

Zoom Phone is a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) based service that allows businesses to make phone calls using the cloud-based Zoom software platform.

The company’s plan come at a time the Indian government has been pushing over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp and Zoom to secure telecom licences for providing calling services.

In August, the Department of Telecom (DoT) asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to prepare a framework for regulating platforms offering internet calling and messaging services in the country. The draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022, which was released in September for public consultation, also proposed that OTT platforms that offer telecom services should obtain a licence just like telecom operators.

While Kapur didn’t elaborate on the exact nature of the licence and clearances required to offer its Zoom Phone service in India, Cisco unit Webex India became the first OTT player in September to receive a telecom licence in India. Cisco said at the time that the licence will allow the company to offer enhanced Webex collaboration services to customers in India. Like Zoom, Webex is also used by businesses for video communication, calling, etc.

“We are committed to supporting our users in India and look forward to offering the ability to make phone calls with the same ease and familiarity as Zoom meetings,” said Kapur. Further, Kapur said India is a “strategically important” market for Zoom. “We have a strong successful business in India and are launching more products,” he added. Zoom is also looking to expand partnerships with developers, distributors, third-party apps and hardware ecosystem providers in India.

“We will also see growth come from third-party platforms that are embedding Zoom’s SDK (software development kit) for video, voice, and chat,” said Kapur. SDKs are used by developers to create apps that tap into the features and services provided by another app.

In April, Zoom opened its second technology centre in India, located in Chennai. The first centre opened in Bengaluru in July 2020.

With the return to office, many of the pandemic-era trends are being rolled back. Zoom, whose popularity surged during the pandemic amid a rush for video conferencing, is facing slowing demand as nations eased curbs on mobility. The company is also facing intense pressure from rivals Microsoft and Cisco.

Kapur, however, claimed that Zoom is seeing new business opportunities. “We are moving from being a loved app for video conferencing to becoming a broad communications platform that covers all forms of communication,” he said, adding users are also “actively” using metaverse features like digital avatars in Zoom meetings.

“We are looking closely at the kind of experimentation people are doing on these platforms (like Meta’s Horizon Worlds). Everyone is not working virtually five days a week. But there are going to be days where half of the people will be in the office and the rest will not be in the office. We aim to connect the two communities with technology,” said Kapur, noting that Zoom meetings are also available on Meta’s Horizon Worlds platform, which is at the centre of that firm’s plans to build future metaverses.

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