Wow! India! What a happening place. Even in the midst of a global economic slowdown, the morning Mumbai newspaper had the headline, “India GDP up 7.9%” reflecting the quarter ended September 2009 vs. the year prior. This land of rich history is busy writing a new chapter, for sure.
The enterprise customers in Mumbai were a cross section of businesses, including retail banking, retail financial brokerage, construction, a major television network, a diamond-grading institution, and a number of software firms. Most of the software firms were providing contract services to clients around the globe.
These businesses all had some very clear and consistent reasons for coming to a UC meeting. Most of all, to find out more about how UC could help them save money and cut costs. But, in every case, they added some business improvement goals, too, such as better collaboration with their customers, better employee productivity, improved branch communications, enhanced international communications, lower costs for conferencing services, and/or cutting the telecom bills.
Also, it was clear that these managers and planners were expecting to apply Unified Communications to selected parts of their businesses, in some logical sequence based on the applications mentioned. They might be focusing on customer interfaces, or on mobile staff, or on branch operations, but clearly they were planning to proceed in phases to accelerate the benefits, to lower the risks, and to align with budgetary constraints.
Roughly half of the firms were already running Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 in a pilot environment, anticipating production rollouts in 2010. But whether they were in pilot mode or still in the planning stages, all of them were gathering the facts to help them justify and budget for their UC actions. Notably, the questions about justification were very much in the mode of ‘how to’ make sure UC can be justified, rather than in the mode of not taking action until the case is ‘proven’ beyond doubt. In other words, these businesses in India seem to be focused on how to capture the opportunities, rather than on protecting the status quo.
To add spice to the UC scene in India (beyond the spice in the wonderful food), both the customer and the System Integrator UC teams have to work with a telecom regulation in India that bans any call in the public network from crossing the boundary between traditional analog/TDM (time division multiplexing) telephony and IP (packet-based) telephony. If there’s Internet Protocol telephony in the call, such as from a PC or an IP Phone, then the call has to stay entirely within the enterprise’s private network, or has to be entirely on the data network. Obviously, this can create a few challenges in system design and call routing, but there seemed to be plenty of Unified Communications applications that could be deployed without crossing that regulatory line. Hopefully, that type of regulation will be eliminated soon. Regulatory adjustments have already been made to accommodate the booming call center industry in India, so it would seem the changes could be extended to general purpose communications, as well.
In summary, UC has momentum in India. Businesses are planning and pilot testing the next wave of applications. And, with the thriving India economy, it sure seems there will be plenty of UC roll-outs around Mumbai in 2010!