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Polycom bets big on India’s digital transformation initiatives: Mary McDowell

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We are all about making the experience of using Polycom solutions as human as possible, she said.

Global voice and video conferencing solutions giant Polycom sees huge business opportunity in India’s digital transformation initiatives. Mary T McDowell , the US technology giant’s global chief executive, told ET’s CR Sukumar in an interview that the Indian voice and video conferencing solutions market could grow five folds over the next decade. Polycom is also open to collaborate with or acquire technology startups that fill technology gaps, she said. Edited excerpts:

What has Polycom’s journey been like after it retreated from public markets in September 2016?
It has been a great journey so far. Polycom is going through major transformation and positive growth. My objective was to bring back growth toPolycom and, more specifically, to align with fast-growth segments in the market. Our partnership with Microsoft was part of this strategy and it has been going quite well for us. And then we started building new partnerships.

One of the other things that has been happening in the sector is the emergence of new cloud players like Zoom and BlueJeans, who provide video services. We have also started building new partnerships with them. We used to think of them as our competitors and now, we see them as an opportunity to sell our room equipment attached to their cloud. So, we made that strategic pivot last year and we are starting to see fruits of that. In 2017, for the first time in six years, we did have year-over-year revenue growth. Our strategy is beginning to bear fruit and we believe that we are on the right trajectory to continue to grow the company.

Any new collaborations on the anvil?
Definitely, we are just getting started on this transition to ecosystem centric strategy. Microsoft is a key player for us but there will certainly be other large players that we can work with. We had a technology demo with Amazon Alexa recently, for example. You can expect many more announcements as we bring in additional players. It really goes back to the fact that video is becoming so pervasive within businesses and different vendors provide different types of solutions, but all of them create opportunities for us to provide endpoints in meeting rooms and beyond. A part of our change in strategy is to not only sell Polycom solutions but to also partner with the fast-growing players in the market, like Zoom and BlueJeans. Our partnerships allow us to address price points that are attractive to price-conscious customers. So, rather than thinking of them as a threat, we are embracing them as an opportunity.

How do you look at India business opportunities in the backdrop of the government’s digital transformation initiatives?
This a crucial time in India’s history as the country continues to go through digital transformation, bringing significant change to almost all sectors of society – from the way people receive critical services like healthcare to how students are taught, and business gets done. As ‘Digital India’ moves closer to becoming reality, there is a huge opportunity for companies like Polycom to provide collaboration technologies that will bridge rural-urban divide and deliver mission-critical government services. India is a very important market for us. We have many large enterprise customers expanding their collaboration footprint. SMB is also a big sector for us. As part of the Digital India framework, key verticals like tele-medicine, education and government is creating a lot of growth opportunity for us. India had a great year last year in terms of growth and it is a big contributor to Polycom’s global growth. To gear up for this opportunity, we are building our team and talking to our R&D centres to see if we can develop solutions specific to the Indian market.

How critical is India R&D for Polycom’s global services and revenues?
The R&D in India is delivering fundamental software that drives a big portion of our revenues in terms of voice and video endpoints. It’s very strategic for us. We have had phenomenal growth in the Indian market. We can optimise and achieve capabilities and price points demanded by the Indian market, which becomes leveragable across the globe. Indian market sets design points for the world. There’s a lot to learn from the consumers of our technology here. The collaboration market in India is growing and we want to grow with it.

How do you see the start-up ecosystem evolving in India? Any plans for collaborations and acquisitions?
Not specific to India, but we are open to acquiring companies that can fill any technology gaps for us. We just closed the acquisition of a California-based company last week —Obihai Technology—an innovator in VoIP audio solutions. This acquisition allows us to accelerate our plans to deliver the best experience in our audio and video solutions, opening up new markets and revenue opportunities.

How will technologies like AI, VR impact the way we collaborate? How is Polycom innovating to keep up with the transition in the market?
We are all about making the experience of using Polycom solutions as human as possible. Some of the innovation comes from very core audio/video algorithms for sensing what is really going on in a meeting room. Our innovations mainly focus on ease of use. So we are working on things like facial recognition, adding in AI capabilities to our cameras, leveraging natural language processing, etc. For example, imagine a world where you walk into a conference room, touch your badge to the table and the system could automatically dial you into the prescheduled call. Or where sensors and AI combine to take roll at a board meeting, producing a real-time transcription and translation of the discussion - this is the future of collaboration.Polycom’s goal is to make collaboration spaces productive and to create experiences that are as in-person like as possible.

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