Pankaj Gupta, Founder & CEO, talks about the journey of EnableX, its business model and how CPaaS solutions differ from UCaaS solutions
What is the story behind the genesis of EnableX? What are the solutions and services being offered?
Well, people are increasingly moving towards real-time communication instead of offline interactions. With customer experience taking center stage, communication needs to happen instantly. We set up this company called vCloudx about two years back in August 2017. We spent more than a year and a half to come out with the first version ofour product EnableX. EnableX is essentially a Communication platform as a Service. We set up EnableX with the idea of offering enterprises and the developer community to embed real-time communication into business and consumer solutions.
We have two engineering centers, one in Noida and one in Bangalore. We have about 25+ engineers who operate out of these two offices. So engineering, customer service, back-office is all in India, some of the sales as well and the product management and marketing teams are based in Singapore.
We have also gone through that cycle where you take your product to the market, you realise what can be made better and you learn from your experiences. Video, Voice, and SMS; pretty much completes the full-stack of communication and I can say that by the next month, we will have a full-stack offering. With this, we will be the only Asian full-stack CPaaS provider.
What are the main advantages of a CpaaS solution? Which are the industries having maximum traction from CPaaS solutions?
You would see that a lot of businesses develop their business applications and rely on other bits and pieces such as Messenger, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, etc. to facilitate two-way communication. However, these applications do not talk to each other. The whole concept behind CPaaS is to enable a seamless integration of the two so that the communication capability becomes available to the end-user from within the business application that he/she is using.
Let’s take the case of Healthcare as an Industry. For instance, there is a company that is developing a doctor-patient healthcare consultation solution. Remote consultations, telemedicine, all these things are being offered through the solution. There are two ways it can happen. One is, you create a stand-alone doctor-patient application, which is basically used for scheduling. And then at the scheduled time, you can use Skype,WhatsApp, Facetime, or other communication applications to do the actual consultation. In which case, there are two different systems that work in silos that do not talk to each other. This is not really the most convenient thing for the patient or thedoctor. The second alternative is leveraging CPaaS; What CPaaS does is that within the doctor-patient application, you can integrate the capabilities of real-time communication. Moreover, as a solution provider, you need not own/build or manage your own communication technology and can rather focus on your business solution.
What stops a solution provider from using the tools already there in the market?
As a matter of fact, these third-party apps are stand-alone solutions and don’t allow you to integrate them within your application. These are stand-alone products made for different use-cases. In other words, they are C2C tools, meant for different end-uses.
How would you differentiate a CPaaS solution from an UcaaS solution?
So, there is a global debate on UCaaS vs CPaaS. The major difference is that UcaaS be it Skype for Business, Cisco Jabber, Zoom or any other is a product. At the end of the day, even if you try to integrate some of the UCaaS products into your business flow, you still have to live with the constraints of the product. While they may allow you some level of integration, you cannot, for instance, change the interface.
CpaaS is offered through a cloud infrastructure, purely in a SaaS model. It is purely on pay as you use. I believe, even for UCaaS today, businesses would rather subscribe to the cloud service rather than deploying UCaaS in their infrastructure, unless they are a very large enterprise.
In case of startup with 30-40 people, if it uses Skype for Business, it will use the subscription model online or use Office 365 instead of installing its own infrastructure. To put it into perspective, the differentiation between UCaaS and CPaaS is not from the Infrastructure perspective, but purely from the capabilities of integration and customization to give a seamless end-customer experience, and the value-added capabilities available in CPaaS. When we look at different studies today, the biggest priority for the CXOof tomorrow is Customer Experience. So,The kind of customer experience that you can build in a seamless single interface can never be achieved by bringing different blocks of products together.
If you use a UCaaS product, for example, the same user information will be kept in the business application, as well as the UCaaS ecosystem also. On the contrary in a CPaaS network scenario, everything is there in the healthcare application. The CPaaS platform is just invoked or used to facilitate communication. So it isThis ensures a seamless interface for the end-user eliminating the need for interacting with two different user ids or two different ecosystems. The user talks to a single interface provided by the healthcare application.
How are the newer technologies like AR, VR, IoT, robotics getting integrated into CPaaS solutions?
There are definitely use cases. In my opinion though, bots are too common now, it is merely a rule-based Q&A that becomes intelligent depending on how extensive you can make your rule-set. It is based on the algorithms of Machine-Learning, self-learning, etc. However, it comes with its own limitations. A bot can work only up to a point beyond which, you would need human intervention.
There are use cases wherein Automation will work up to a level, but after that, there will have to be communication. To give you an example, there are smoke sensors installed in many buildings, now these smoke sensors today are connected to some centralized server or some centralized console panel in the building. If it detects smoke, it will ring an alarm and that’s about it.
The next step of this will be where it can be connected to a communication server and send you an SMS on your phone informing you about the smoke There, a communication platform comes into play.
Now, take this thought forward – on your phone itself, you have an app, which is connected to this device which has a small camera, now when the SMS comes, you click a button, the camera starts and you can see for yourself if there is actually something or if it was a false alarm. So now, this communication platform can enable this communication between your endpoint and this device.
Similarly, talking about access control systems if you live in condos today, you have those applications but for you to use them, your mobile has to be on a wifi network with your home device to be able to get real-time updates. The next step is that the Wifi will not be required, you could be anywhere in the world through a centralized communication platform in between, your device will talk to you on your app. This, again is facilitated by a communication platform in between which is on a publicly accessible infrastructure.
Going back to the case of the doctor-patient application, if the communication is carried out within the app, then the doctor can see all your patient history on the same screen when he is talking to you. Otherwise, you talk to him and he switches tabs or asks you to wait till he checks your history. So that is the customer experience I was referring to, is becoming most critical to any CIO. That means I want my customer, whether it is the end-user or the service provider, to be able to seamlessly communicate with the use of full contextual communication or in a single interface. And those are the kind of use cases that get facilitated when developers or product management teams use a platform that can be seamlessly integrated with existing workflows and that is why we started EnableX. We enabled solution providers and developers to provide a better and cohesive customer experience.
What is your customer profile and what is the nature of some of the use-cases? Are they in India already?
More than 1000 active developers, customers who are building solutions and applications at various stages have already experienced the power of our platform in the last 5-6 months. Speaking of geographies, we have customers in India, Singapore, and China.
In China, we work with a company which is in the healthcare space, facilitating training between doctors and medical reps. Apparently, there is a lot of corruption in this business. The pharma lab corrupts the doctor to prescribe their new products, and the Chinese government is coming down heavily on this, saying that there should be no physical contact between the rep and the doctor so all the training needs to happen through a video-based communication platform. The video must be recorded and stored and the government will have the right to review that. So we have built a platform with a company which works with some of the biggest pharma companies and the hospitals to facilitate that. Considering that Chinese infrastructure is slightly complex, we have set up a dedicated infrastructure in China for this particular customer. Similarly, we are working with customers in the Middle East who are already doing video-based KYC in the financial sector. In India, just 2 weeks back, the government finally approved it (Video KYCs). But we are already working with financial services companies in the Middle East who are doing video-based KYC for remittances.
In India, we are working with a couple of companies in the co-working domain. For one of these, we have created a remote receptionist. So, the co-working space has installed a touchscreen-based kiosk wherein any visitor can connect with the receptionist operating out of the headquarters managing ten different centers. So when you go to that co-working space, there is no receptionist, but a kiosk and there is one receptionist sitting in HQ managing ten centers.
Recently, we started working with an HR company in India, started by a big Ex-CIO. They have created a marketplace where companies can list their resource availability and can post requirements. They are integrating EnableX to facilitate Video-based screening of the candidates. So today, every resume looks good. But when you meet the candidate, you might feel that the resume was written by somebody else and the candidate’s personality is quite different. What we are doing for them is that whenever a company posts its requirement for a candidate, they also create a video screening interface for the candidate to go through so that they can assess the candidate before meeting him/her. The recorded video goes to the company and then they can call them for a face-to-face interaction. This tool is being integrated into their marketplace. It would be made mandatory for candidates to go through the video screening. It saves huge time and effort for everybody.
Who are the competitors in this space apart from UC players?
UC is a competition in some sense because UC is a bit more popular. I know for a fact that today, there is no Indian player in the market whom we call the competitor. There is no full-stack CPaaS provider offering end to end services in this market. So globally, there could be a couple of companies such as Twilio, Vonage, Agora.io, etc. However, if we think about ‘full-stack providers’, there are not more than four-five players who have a complete set of offerings. So far, we have been a very video-centric CPaaS provider where our focus is- video capabilities that can be added to your application and solutions. However, now we aim to expand extensively.
What is the channel strategy for India?
India, is a mix strategy of direct and digital. There is an ISV community which we are targeting directly. But our approach on Direct is two-fold. One is the ISV/SI engagement. We work with NEC in China, Motherson Group, we have some engagements with HCL and some smaller players as well. Then, second is the startup community. India has a huge startup community and all startups are tech companies dealing with communication at some level or the other. So, a lot of our direct focus is to engage with the startup ecosystem where we are trying to sell directly to startups building products or services.
So we definitely tap the indirect model. In India, you can’t have a large sales team. You can’t put a team on the ground in multiple places. So we follow an indirect model in India and that too, mostly with digital marketing. We get a lot of pull from our digital initiatives.
Our channel becomes the developer community itself when some company in the US providing customer experience solutions selects us and uses our APIs to integrate capabilities for their different set of clients.
How is it as a business risk to work with startups?
On the contrary, for them, the startups do not have to incur capex, they pay only for what they use. And, from our perspective also, if they are not able to sell, they would not use our platform. So the risk is minimized even there. And startups is just a number game. Their understanding of technology, their own constraint that they can’t create everything on their own makes them use multiple blocks.
We are working with a lot of startups in India too. In India, the other challenge is, being a startup if you go to a customer and say that I am using multiple other products by different companies, you kind of lose credibility in terms of service & support. We are totally transparent, as we provide EnableX as a white-label platform.
There are at least 3-4 from the Healthcare space, and they have different kinds of models. Then we are working with another one providing online training, and with many interesting use cases. There’s a company teaching Guitar playing online to students using our platform. There’s another one teaching Chess. Then we work with another company which is into condo-facilities management. Some kind of use case we discussed previously about how you get a notification if someone visits your house.
They are now rolling out a capability where now if somebody visits your condo, Today you just get a notification, now you will be able to see them before you allow them. So there is a use-case around that. Then I already mentioned about a company in the BFSI space, They have integrated our video into their CRM suite. Now their HNI customers can talk to the customer service agent over live-video. It is all about enhancing customer experience that is correlated and contextual.
Apart from completing the portfolio or going beyond Video what are your other key focus area?
From the product perspective, there is a block of Voice Video & Messaging. Then there are a set of advanced capabilities where AI and ML comes in and where AR & VR will eventually come in to further improve the user experience.
We are also using a lot AI for capacity management and dynamic planning. For instance, within your application experience, if you are in a network environment where the bandwidth is constantly fluctuating and reducing, even when your bandwidth is low, we will smartly start reducing your resolution first. And give priority to voice so that the communication continues. If it goes to a very low threshold, we will automatically switch off your video. Apart from the core product blocks, a lot of development is happening towards building capabilities which are self-learning to enhance the end-user experience.
We have three pillars of revenue –
- Core CpaaS model
- Consulting & Professional services where we help our customers use our platform to the best of its capabilities.
- SaaS – In the next couple of months, we plan to come up with our SaaS offerings in verticals like HR and collaboration. These are the areas where we bring inherent experience and expertise. Having worked with telcos in the past 15 years, we are building something that telcos can take to their end customers so, that will be the third block where assured & recurring revenues will start coming in.