Webex innovations bring additional avenues of growth and revenue for partners: Pankaj Agrawal, Cisco India & SAARC

Pankaj Agrawal, Director, Collaboration Business, Cisco India & SAARC

With secure and seamless virtual collaboration becoming a top priority for organisations in the new normal, networking major Cisco has introduced over 50 innovations within its collaboration portfolio to enable seamless collaboration, smart hybrid work experiences, and intelligent customer experiences, explains Pankaj Agrawal, Director, Collaboration Business, Cisco India & SAARC

 Can you share the growth in the cloud-based collaboration and communication market in FY 19-20?

Spurred by the pandemic, cloud-based collaboration tools have taken center stage. According to IDC, the global unified communications & collaboration (UC&C) revenue grew over 25% y-o-y and 12.4% quarter over quarter to $11.5 billion in the second quarter of 2020. Webex had nearly 600 million participants globally in October 2020, almost double the number we had in March 2020.

In response, at Cisco, we have enhanced our Webex cloud collaboration platform in terms of user experience and device and business apps integration, assisted by new AI-based capabilities and integrated platform management and control. Additionally, we responded to the surge in demand for remote work with a rapid build-out of the Webex cloud capacity and strengthening security, resilience, and performance.

How is Cisco targeting a bigger share of the booming online collaboration market?

With secure and seamless virtual collaboration becoming a top priority for organisations in the new normal, at Cisco, we have been focusing on facilitating this shift towards hybrid working and less reliance on geography-based hiring, opening the global economy and giving everyone a seat at the table—no matter where the table is.

In these efforts, we have recently introduced over 50 innovations within our collaboration portfolio to enable seamless collaboration, smart hybrid work experiences, and intelligent customer experiences, all built on the rock-solid security and manageability synonymous with Cisco. These include an all new Webex app for meetings, messaging, and calling; brand new devices for workers that deliver a better experience and give IT the ability to manage a hybrid workforce; expanded People Insights with new features that deliver highly personalized insights and actionable recommendations to individuals, teams, and organisations; and a new Webex Contact Center that provides powerful new benefits for agents, customers and businesses of all sizes.

Additionally, we’ve expanded our partner ecosystem, bringing new workflow integrations with industry leaders, including Box, DropBox, Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Workplace from Facebook, to help users focus on the work at hand and collaborate seamlessly in real-time.

From a collaboration and communication portfolio POV, which products are doing well for your partner community?

Given the scale and speed at which organisations are switching to hybrid work models, our partners have seen a surge in demand across our collaboration and security portfolios, especially for Webex. For instance, we have had over four million Webex signups since February to date, with India recording the second-highest Webex usage after the US, at an average of over 100 million participants and 12.5 million meetings per month.

The highest trial signups have originated in BFSI, ITeS, public sector, pharmaceuticals, education, healthcare, and small businesses. On Cisco’s own e-commerce platform for Webex, which was launched in September 2020, almost 80% of the buyers are small and medium companies, and 20% are individuals, with orders coming in from over 300 cities in India.

For our channel partners, this means a much larger and diverse consumer base. And as we introduce more Webex innovations, it also means additional avenues of growth and revenue.

What are some of the emerging opportunities that you believe will be big for your channel partners this year?

While one of the most disruptive events the world has ever witnessed, the pandemic has simultaneously accelerated digitization by a few years. Now, organizations, large and small, are increasingly switching to hybrid business and work models, which has brought seamless, secure, and agile virtual collaboration to the forefront.

This spells tremendous opportunity for our channel partners. In the coming times, they will serve as the bridge to a broader consumer base and deliver the benefits of new Cisco technologies that empower and enable a hybrid workforce, secure highly distributed enterprises, and spark a new wave of innovation, unhindered by location.

With a mass shift to online working, learning, and socializing, how is Cisco growing its share in this space?

This crisis was entirely unprecedented, rendering the BCPs of most companies ineffective. Given that WFH was not new to Cisco, we focused on helping our customers, partners, and the industry stay productive from home. In April, Cisco engaged with over 600 customers in India to help them with business continuity plans. To date, Cisco India has enabled over 5,00,000 knowledge workers in India to work from home securely.

At the same time, Cisco has been focused on ensuring continued learning across industries. For instance, we have been working with hospitals across the country, leveraging Webex to help train hospital staff in remote locations on handling ventilators, critical care, and safety aspects around COVID-19. In Gujarat, we connected over 80 government hospitals and trained 4000 doctors through WebEx. In Bangalore’s Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, we helped train over 25,000 health workers on COVID-related methodologies. So far, we have conducted 8,300 meetings through Webex. Additionally, in April, at the peak of the lockdown, 5,000 hours of lectures were delivered across the top 40+ institutes (including 18 IITs). This number has grown manifold since.

Now, recognizing the varied collaboration needs for different sectors, we have recently announced key enhancements and variations of Cisco Webex, catering specifically to the needs of educators, legislators, and government bodies with customized security features. For example, we have Webex Legislate for the government sector, a purpose-built cloud solution that allows remote legislative bodies to convene safely and securely. We have also introduced Webex Classrooms, which enables a secure and easy-to-use web-based learning experience to join or host classes, track class attendance, break out into small groups to collaborate on projects, etc.

To meet the demand for online business conferences, how is Cisco planning to capture this growing opportunity?

The new normal has brought with it a strong pivot from in-person to virtual events—and the change is here to stay. According to Gartner, it is estimated that by 2024, a mere quarter of enterprise meetings will be conducted live compared to 60% in 2019. To meet the demand for online business conferences, Cisco is introducing a new Webex Events native live streaming platform that can support up to 100,000 participants.

Additionally, to make the platform more interactive, we recently announced Cisco’s intent to acquire Slido, a technology company that provides a best-in-class audience interaction platform. The Slido technology will be part of the Cisco Webex platform and enhance Cisco’s ability to offer new levels of inclusive audience engagement across both in-person and virtual experiences.

 What will the future of work look like?

The global pandemic has changed how we work and embedded collaboration into the fabric of our society. There’s no way to turn back the clock. The future of work is hybrid. Organisations are increasingly realizing that work is what you do, not where you go. In fact, according to a recent global Cisco survey, 58% of respondents expect to be working from home eight days a month or more – even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

So, as we think about the hybrid workforce, we need to think about employee productivity and employee well-being. Our customers are coming to grips with this new reality of hybrid work and are focusing on empowering remote workers with the right tools, technologies, and policies and enabling a safe return to the office, all underpinned with the highest level of security and privacy.


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