Video conferencing app Zoom‘s COO Aparna Bawa and President of Products and Engineering, Velchamy Sankarlingam spoke exclusively from the US. This was their first interview to Indian media. Edited excerpts
How have the last few months been? Were you prepared for the velocity of growth that suddenly exploded after Covid-19?
Aparna Bawa: It has been incredible. At the end of Dec 2019, we had 10 million daily meeting participants. By the end of April, we announced that we had reached 300 million daily meeting participants… But I am not sure that anything about this pandemic is perfectly planned.. We used it as an opportunity to see how we can scale our business… The use cases for the platform took off.. in diff ways.. from workplace collaboration to yoga classes, weddings, graduations on Zoom.. The world has adopted Zoom as a way to connect .. human connection has changed forever.
Take us through the specific growth in India, the use cases? Recent Sensor Tower data showed that Zoom was one of the most downloaded apps in Q1
Velchamy Sankarlingam: I don’t think we split the users by country. Between Jan and April, we saw 67 times the number of free users and 4 times the number of paid users in India
You recently spoke about increasing investments in India.. Can you tell us what to expect- in terms of data centres, hiring
We will have more details coming up pretty soon. One of the things I realised is we need to scale the org, so we need talent… how to expand the world class team.. need more presence worldwide
In the last few weeks, there has been a concerted effort by Zoom to establish that it is an American company built by an immigrant… I saw the conversation between both of you, I also saw the video by Subrah Iyer.. Why do you think Zoom has found it difficult to shake off this image , the Chinese connection, especially at a time when the US and India are at war with China… How difficult is this going to be?
APARNA BAWA: I have to say that we can only be who we are and stay true to who we are- rumours are rumours and it will be what it is. The only thing we can do is to reiterate core values. Zoom is an American company, we are listed on the Nasdaq., we have a founder who is ethnically Chinese and an American citizen but a global company… We are in over 80 diff countries across the world, have employees all over the world, focus on continuing to build the service and focus on customers.. Eric (Yuan) has been one of the most genuine, grounded people I have ever met in my entire life… Everybody at Zoom will probably say the same thing,… He is just focused on delivering an outstanding product.
I think one of the reasons why people have this concern is over 700 employees work in China in product and development, some of your critical work is done there. How would you respond to these concerns?
APARNA BAWA: We are a tech company and tech cos focus on R and D efforts all over the world.. Lot of cos have R and D centres in China.. most of our development is organised through the United States.. But if you have a look at the tech landscape, the R and D centre being offshored is not a new thing. This is an industry wide phenomenon…
You are driving the India biz at a time when the govt is driving this whole effort towards Atmanirbhar Bharat or self reliance… We recently saw the govt banning 59 Chinese apps… The home ministry issued a circular in April highlighting some security concerns on Zoom.. How are you going to address these Concerns?
Velchamy Sankarlingam: One of the things is we have sold it to multiple global organisations, there are Govts who use Zoom as well. This has gone through a lot of rigour. The Singapore govt has approved Zoom to provide learning. They look at our data centre architecture.. Our job is to make sure we provide the right information to the right folks in the Govt so that they can make a decision based on the right data , so that is what we are in the process of doing…
Massive hacks has again put the spotlight on security..Twitter was caught unaware but how are you going to handle these concerns going ahead
Velchamy Sankarlingam: I think the fundamental way you deal with it is build all this as part of your DNA.. when you build, you need to think of all these scenarios and use cases… We are making it easier and ensure product doesn’t become complicated while we work on security and reliability
I want to pick your brains on the competitive landscape here in India… Mukesh Ambani’s company recently launched JioMeet and the first thing that people noticed was its striking similarity to Zoom.. Were you flattered or outraged? What was your first reaction?
APARNA BAWA: The first reaction is competition makes us think about how to innovate, make our products and service better and provide value to our customer.. Been in business since 2011.. Have always been in situations where there are very large legacy vendors that are our competitors. So competition is something we are very comfortable and used to.. Hard to replicate what Zoom has… it comes as a package. That might not go irrespective of competitors who come and go anytime..