Understanding National Digital Communication Policy For Startups And Cloud Telephony Players

iSPIRT has been actively engaged in pursuing the favourable policy for the Cloud Telephony sector in Telecom Industry, an amalgamation of the various IT and Communications technologies.

National Digital Communication Policy has been announced recently and it is encouraging to see the announcements in the policy on some common issues to do with Startup ecosystem and digital communication aspects of the Cloud Telephony Players.

We are expecting the Department of Telecom (DOT) to further work on implementation and framing of rules and regulation in light of policy in near future. Despite many positive directional changes, there is a need to develop a regulatory framework for the Cloud Telephony players. Cloud Telephony players are adding value to communication and hence to the economy in several innovative ways. In addition, they also add a good revenue stream to licenses Telecom Service Providers (TSPs).

This PolicyHacks session is devoted to the critical analysis of the NDCP for this sub-sectoral player. Some of the entrepreneurs involved in the discussion are Gurumurthy Konduri of Ozonetel, Ujwal Makhija of PhoneOn, Gaurav Agrawal of Exotel and Gaurav Sawhney of Knowlarity.

A recording of this discussion is given below. Please feel free to click and watch. (About 20 seconds lost in the opening frame, apologises for the error)

The main point covered in the discussion is summed up below as are the some of our recommendations and good work is done (while the Policy was in the draft stage and during various consultation processes), which have been reflected in the policy under respective sections as under:

Page 7

1.1.(f)   – Encourage and facilitate sharing of active infrastructure by enhancing the scope of Infrastructure Providers (IP) and promoting and incentivising the deployment of common sharable, passive as well as active, infrastructure

1.1.(g).iv.  –  Allowing benefits of convergence in areas such as IP-PSTN switching.

Both of these are encouraging moves however it is to be seen how further rules and framework make easy for Small and Startup companies to use them without licensed TSPs creating a barrier for them.

Page 8

1.1.(j) – By encouraging innovative approaches to infrastructure creation and access including through resale and Virtual Network Operators (VNO)

This is a very encouraging announcement for the Cloud Telephony startups.

Page 14

2.1. (c ) iv. – Improving the Terms and Conditions for ‘Other Service Providers’, including definitions, compliance requirements and restrictions on inter-connectivity

2.1.(c ).viii. – Creating a regime for fixed number portability to facilitate one nation – one number including portability of toll-free number, Universal Access numbers and DID numbers

Again very encouraging but needs some boost up. Audiotex regime must go most speakers feel and all the players in Cloud telephony are treated as ASP. These provisions will help cloud telephony to deliver better value propositions in their offerings.

Page 15

2.2.(a) iv:  – Encourage use of Open APIs for emerging technologies

2.2. (b) – Promoting innovation in the creation of Communication services and network infrastructure by Developing a policy framework for ‘Over The Top’ (OTT) services.

2.2.(f) ii.  – Enabling a light touch regulation for the proliferation of cloud-based systems

2.2.(f).iii. – Facilitating Cloud Service Providers to establish captive fibre networks.

A welcome move to encourage Open APIs. However, licenses TSP should be given one standard that is governed by DOT to implement any APIs that let them monitor cloud telephony or ASPs on their network, instead of allowing them to create a regime of their own.

Generally, an OTT policy is recommended in reforming the sector. However, OTT framework should not be mixed with ASP or Cloud Telephony providers. It is better to keep a distinction between the two.

Page 17:

2.4.(a).ii: – Promoting participation of Start-ups and SMEs in government procurement

2.4.(b).  – Reducing the entry barriers for start-ups by reducing the initial cost and compliance burden, especially for new and innovative segments and services.

Acceptance of these issues is very encouraging. The Government can be a very big user of the Cloud Telephony industry also. And we hope this will turn out to be a winning proposition for the Cloud Telephony industry in near future.


Whereas this policy announcement reflects a positive change, it is yet to be seen how DOT look at Cloud Telephony and provides it with a recognition as a sub-sector with easy and proper regulatory framework for same.

Note: The above article is co-authored by Gurumurthy Konduri of Ozonetel with Sudhir Singh of iSPIRT

Cloud Telephony Startups seek support from TRAI

This write-up should be read along with the previous blog – The Value Added Service Providers in Cloud Telephony. These blogs help us to accumulate the progressive development in discourse on policy for this segment of Industry. It is important for our common understanding and help Software product industry innovating in telecom sector in general and cloud telephony in specific terms.

The Startups providing Value Added Services also refereed to as Cloud Telephony submitted their response to Consultation Papers by TRAI on Voice Mail/Audiotex/Unified Messaging Services Licence. 

TRAI also received responses from other service providers (which includes licensed Telecom Operators and ISPs) and Industry Bodies and Individuals. iSPIRT response was also submitted on the due date and can be accessed here from TRAI website.

The responses have been analysed and as required the counter comments have  been filed with TRAI.  Given below is our Response submission.

Counter Comments to responses received on Consultation paper by TRAI on Voice Mail/Audiotex/Unified Messaging Services Licence. Dt. 08/08/2016

After reading the responses to consultation papers, it is evident enough, that there is a clear divide between the Startup or SME players and the Telcos or the industry bodies representing them.

As previously described by us, almost all companies presently providing the services in this (voice mail/Audiotex) space are startups or SME players who have built their own Software products. Unified license operators are already allowed to provide these service. So, there is no barrier for them to enter in to these services, except creating specialisation around these services and building the requisite Software that runs the service.

The licensed Telecom operators in their responses to consultation paper have blindly favoured a license regime in this space, as well as attempted to make the case of revenue loss and breach of license. This is clearly an attempt to hog the telecom sector landscape.

We believe the approach taken by the large players in the Industry is contrary to the direction, thought and objectives of present Government. It confronts the principles of building an innovative society and multiplying growth opportunities for the enterprising youth of our country.

Recognize them as value added Services

We already stated this in our response earlier submitted. However, it seems there is a need to reinforce the point.

The services provided in this space are highly specialised “Value Added Services”. They are by no means either the carriage services or network services. It is a layer on top of the existing mobile and basic telephony that delights the consumer by fulfilling their needs that basic/mobile telephony cannot.

Value Addition is done on the services hired from licenses telecom operators, which have already been subject to revenue share mechanism. Hence, the very claim that these services can be sold at a cheaper rate than the local calls is squarely an imagination. So, also the revenue loss story does not stand any ground.

Therefore, the need to recognize this aspect of “Value Added Service” providers, is primary to any policy framing under consideration on the subject.

Regulate doesn’t imply inevitability of license

There is a serious need to catch up with technological advancements. A large country like India can’t be left to mercy of few companies on this account. This calls for reform and further deregulation of the telecom sector to a degree that it is accommodates the changes from time to time.

In order to allay any doubts of the stakeholders in this sector and better value to the consumer, there may be need to regulate this sub-sector of Value Added Service provider.

Regulation does not always mean “a license”. This value added service sub-sector does not hurt the incumbent licensees in any way. Hence, a simplified regulated regime with lower administrative burden and lowers costs is desirable for suitability to this segment of the telecom sector.

Hence, a registration system with period monitoring and control rather than a license regime has been recommended by us.

Promote Innovation in Digital economy

Indian is entering in to a ‘Digital Economy’ era. Digital India is also not just about connectivity and switching networks. So, a ‘Digital India’ cannot be created by just handful of licensed Telecom players. The consumer in a digital economy is going to consume variety of data and application. Innovative Software products can power up the Digital India to make it a functional ‘Digital Economy’.

Innovation is going to be the lubricant of future digital economies

This segment of the Value Added Service has been born out of innovation of individual entrepreneurs and service provision works on Software products. So, also the commercial part of the service in integrated manner.

At this juncture, when India is wanting to unleash the innovative power by its StartupIndia policy, the license raj or barrier created by large Telcos can be counterproductive to digital economy or the Digital India dream.

Telecom sector and telecom policy at large has to imbibe this need to create friendly promotional environment for innovation to happen. It is not hidden from any one that innovation worldwide is being driven by individuals and small players.

All stakeholders in telecom sector including the licensed telecom operators should contribute to Innovation. Hence, the need to support these small Value Added Service providers and welcome the new ones to emerge.

iSPIRT Request

We seriously feel that growth cannot come from fixing ourselves to status quoist approach. There is a need to further add value to the telecom sector and hence a need to create scope for number of small players to contribute to the overall telecom sector.

There is a huge opportunity for Indian Software industry to innovate and contribute to telecom sector. We from iSPIRT, request that TRAI takes the above points and our earlier response submitted in to consideration and create an enabling environment for India to grow.

The Value Added Service Providers in Cloud Telephony

Industry discussion on response to Consultation Papers by TRAI on Voice Mail/Audiotex/Unified Messaging Services Licence

TRAI floated a consultation paper to review the license of Voice Mail/Audiotex/Unified Messaging Services. The consultation paper throws light along with an in-depth analysis of various issues involved.

Many call these companies as Cloud telephony companies. Cloud telephony is a wider terms. Plus its creates confusion on switching happening from cloud. This can be problematic for a dialog with TRAI or DOT. Hence, We have called them as Value Added Service Providers. This argument is justified in this discussion below.

For iSPIRT this sector is important as

  1. Most of these companies have a Software product at the core developed by them
  2. They are mostly startups and
  3. There is enough scope in  this sector for more innovation to happen.

iSPIRT conducted a discussion on important issues of this segment of the Industry. The discussion was to touch on important aspects of the consultation papers of TRAI. The discussion is organized in 4 parts as follows:

  1. License issues
    • License v/s no license, separate licenses Technology and license mapping
    • Entry Fees, Revenue Share, License Period
  2. Issues like conferencing, dial out, point-to-point conferencing
  3. Unified License – how to tackle this
  4. Focus on innovation, Startups, Ease of Business (compliance)

Following people from Industry joined the Discussion:

  1. Ambarish Gupta, Sandeep Upadhyay and Sriram from Knowlarity
  2. Gurumurthy Konduri from Ozonetel
  3. Shivakumar Ganesan – Exotel
  4. Anik Jain – Myoperator
  5. Ujwal Makhija  – Phonon

Those interested can watch the video embedded here. Also the text below the video describes the common points and agreements of the essence of the discussion.

License issues

There are several questions asked in consultation paper on, What kind of licensing is required for various services. (Q1 to Q8)

At iSPIRT we feel most of these providers fall under one category. And they all should get recognition under one category name. This will include all, those who provide Voice mail, Audiotex, Audio Conferencing service etc. They can focus on one set of service or the entire suit of services.

Nomenclature – Call them Value Added Service providers

Cloud Telephony means a telephony service provided from cloud hosted infrastructure. simple reason that the service offered from cloud. Present policy regime of India calls them content providers. Now this may be difficult to digest for remaining IT industry. This include  provider licensed under the Voice Mail/Audiotex/Unified Messaging Services License.

Application service provider (ASP) and Communication application service provider (CaaS) are other nomenclatuers ascribed.

These providers are not supposed to carry telecom traffic or provide switching of telephony. In essence these providers are “Value Added Service” (VAS) providers. These value added services can range from be voice mail box, an IVR, a virtual PABX, a virtual call center to analytics based services.  There can be lot of innovative ways to deliver services. The VAS operator charges for their value added part. The VAS operator does not have its own network but relies on network resources of the Telcos for the basic or mobile telephony.

Weather a license or a simple Registration process

Everyone in the panel agreed that licensing cumbersome and costly. There is no need for a license and that there should be a simplified registration process.

The registration should be under one category e.g. Value Added Service Providers. This can cover all Voicemail, Audiotex along with Audio conferencing and the Unified messaging.

The registration helps DOT to keep track of fair use of the policy, with complete neutrality and level playing field. DOT can keep watch the registered VAS providers through a simple compliance process.

License issues – Entry Fees, Revenue Share, License Period

There was common agreement in the discussion on fees and charges. Presently there is a bank guarantee of 3 lakhs for Voice Mail/Audiotex licenses. A policy to either keep it at same level or evolve to simplify further is welcome.

License/registration period of 10 or 20 years are good enough.

Issues like conferencing, dial out, point-to-point conferencing

The consultation paper deals at length these issues. For the industry they are of high importance as most confusions arise from them. Often the threats of inspection and service disruption from TERM cell arise from these provisions. There is always a doubt that the VAS operator may be involved in routing call traffic for business motives or running a switching service clandestinely.

In such a dubious doubtful environment this budding segment of Industry cannot grow. The VAS operators addes lot of value to both their suppliers and clients. The customer pays for the value they add not for the telephone calls. For suppliers (Telcos), the VAS operator is a bulk service customer

The common agreement was that this area needs a serious look from TRAI and DOT.

When industry is complying with all required prohibited clauses of the policy such as

  1. No VOPI integration
  2. No toll bypass
  3. No number masking

When the Call deail record (CDR) are all tapped in the Telco’s network;


When there are further detail logs and records that are avaialable from VAS provider;

there does not arise a chance of

  1. Security  breach by VAS operators and
  2. Revenue loss to Telcos

The revenue of Telcos increase happen to increase even when they VAS providers buy from Telcos at a discounted rate. VAS operators increase the size of Pie.

In view of above, the common agreement in the discussion was that

  1. There should be clarity on conferencing, bridging call out provisions
  2. There is nothing like point to point conferencing
  3. The policy should allow VAS operators to use telecom resources from multiple operators. The limiting principle should be dial out to same operator from where incoming call comes.  Multiple operators are the need for reliability or redundancy.

OSP like provisions or OSP should be allowed for VAS providers?

There was an opinion on OSP being allowed to VAS operators. This will give them more flexibility to operate and grow their presence. The opinion attempts to justify the OSP based on analogy of large Captive call center operators allowed OSP with network spanning country wide with a central logic running.

iSPIRT’s opinion is that this may create conflict with other areas of policy under TRAI and also face sever resistance. It is advisable to take up this issue in a phased manner. May be first limiting OSP to one telecom circle at a time. Plus it advisable to approach it, after due consultative interactions with TRAI and DOT.

Unified License – how to tackle this

There are number of questions on Telcos operating under unified license to offer VAS. The questions also point to inclusion of “Voice Mail/Audiotex/Unified Messaging Services” in unified license.

The common opinion that emerges out from discussion is that the Value Added Services is a different ball game. The market should be free for all. Eventually there is a unique Software Product existing behind these services. The quality of service is highly dependent on this core product.

There does not seem to be any apposition to Unified license getting extended to the value added service suit.

Focus on innovation, Startups, Ease of Business (compliance)

This fourth part got truncated from the recording, perhaps for time limit getting crossed unnoticeably.

For benefit of the community. A very short discussion on how this small industry could further be boosted by perhaps giving more access to domestic market through promotional policy measures.

Certainly there is agreement that there is lot of scope to innovate and do more within this segment of the Industry.

The discussion ended by a Thank you note.

#MadeinIndia Cloud telephony and IVRS

The market has been abuzz lately with cloud-based applications and let us admit it, there is more to come.The industry is adopting Cloud based solutions like never before and start-ups are cashing on this technology.One such cloud based technology which is fast gaining its hold in the Indian market is Cloud Telephony or IVR solutions. Now you can conveniently do away with those PBX, IVR, wires and other hassles associated with the traditional on-premise telephony applications. Cloud Telephony can conveniently be used to manage incoming calls, and as virtual receptionist.
cloud telephony ivrs madeinindia
We have done a thorough research to find out the best players in Cloud Telephony in India and here is the list in alphabetical order for you:

Big V’s YOCC
Big V is a Cloud Telephony Company based in India that offers ‘Simpler Affordable Telephony Solutions’ to small and mid-sized businesses. YOCC offers the business houses their Own Call Centre empowering them to base their entire communication system on an automated, single number.


CallHippo implements cloud computing into the world of telephony. Our platform allows deployment of a flexible telephony network, wherever an internet connection is available. We aim to replace the desk phones with soft phones, eliminating the complexity of setting up a phone system.

The software requires no setup cost or hardware cost. It offers various products like Smart Receptionist, Smart Call Center, Smart Toll free, Click to call, and Smart fax.

CloudAgent offers simple Open API for CTI, CDR and Dialer and you can integrate the software with your business systems for an end-to-end customized and optimized process performance. An added benefit offered by CloudAgent is Off-the-shelf integration with various CRM, Helpdesk, and Analytics products.

DialStreet is also a popular choice with a number of features like IVR Studio to record or upload your IVR recordings, integrated analytics, live view to see who exactly is calling you and who is talking to them from your end, large selection of numbers to choose from, API Integration, call recording, forwarding, conferencing and voice mail.

Exotel offers  modern Cloud Telephony solution with top features like IVR, Call Recording, Reporting, SMS and many more. It also provides a suite of tools to manage all your sales, marketing and customer care channels, from dashboard with price starting from just INR 1750/month.

The software offers virtual phone number, B2B lead generation, employee management system, customer lead management and verification, lead grading and lead distribution, interactive voice response and CRM/ERP solutions.

Funded by Sequoia Capital and Mayfield, the company has its presence in 65 countries. Knowlarity has its headquarters in Singapore and in India, it has offices in Gurgaon, Mumbai and Bangalore. Its flagship products, SuperReceptionist and SmartIVR, can process over a million calls an hour.

One of the leading cloud telephony company of India, LeadNxt offerscentralized, open- ended &cost-efficientcommunication system through cloud based telephony applications – IVR, Custom Flow Calls, Call Recording, Call Tracking, Voice Mail and more.  It offers varying pricing structure with its silver, gold, diamond and platinum rate cards.

MCube is a cloud based integrated communication platform that delivers an array of powerful automated call management applications such as Business Helpline, Virtual PBX, Call Tracking and telephony integrated marketing automation tools such as Lead Management and Support Management.

My operator
One of the top Call management system by VoiceTree Technologies Pvt Ltd provides IVR on cloud telephony, EPABX on Cloud& Toll free number for business with pricing starting from just 3000 per month.

Headquartered in Udaipur, Rajasthan, with presence in New Delhi and Guwahati, Niche Tech Solutions Pvt Ltd offers telecom consultancy services to both Public and Private sector organizations in India. The company specializes in providing Computer Telephone Integration (CTI), IVR Systems, Voice Portals, Hosted IVR Solutions, building dynamic database-driven custom Web sites, Web-Voice applications, E-Commerce and business Web site solutions.

Kookoo helps you to build business communication infrastructure using web languages. With an option to pay as per use, Kookoo’s monthly rental varies from Rs. 500 to Rs. 2500. The software allows you to build telecom applications, IVRs, office PBX and outbound campaigns.

Founded in the year 2002, Spark Technology Group Inc provides excellent hosted IVR and integration services. Key services offered are development of custom advanced inbound/outbound IVR, contact center solutions, natural language understanding, content management systems, data transformation, and legacy system integration.

Ziffy offers a starter plan at a monthly rental of Rs. 699 with a call rate of Rs 1.4 and a professional plan at a monthly rental of Rs. 2000 and call rate of 99 paise per minute. The software offers various features like automated welcome message, IVR, virtual number, toll free number, two way sms, call recording and forwarding and many more.

The article has been created with the help of Cloud Telephony and Virtual IVR Analysts at SoftwareSuggest.  The list is not comprehensive and you can mention as comments the software missed by us.

A Cloud telephony startup, VoiceTree- “Bootstrapped”, “Profitable”, “Still growing”

Indian economy is a cluster of more than 30 million small and medium businesses along with large enterprises which are lesser in number. Majorly, these SME’s powers the growth of Indian business industry.

This large SME pool presents a lucrative opportunity for Indian product and service companies only if one is able to tap it.

One such company which is creating a presence among Indian SME domain is “VoiceTree”. The cloud telephony startup, offers business call management solution with an Integrated IVR under its flagship product MyOperator and an automated order confirmation system on the cloud facility through its initial product, CODAC.

Team VoiceTree


The startup was founded in 2010, though it was only in this March that things took a major turn for the company, in a positive way.It was the launch of  MyOperator, which subsequently became its most selling product.The product helped the cloud telephony startup, to scale up to more than 300 customers from 10 in a period of less than 8 months.

With MyOperator, VoiceTree targeted the large SME sector, mostly businesses which have an offline presence, though it also found a niche segment in the ecommerce industry.

In fact, the customers of MyOperator hails from various industry verticals, be it offline businesses like Berger Paints, political party like Aam Aadmi Party, religious groups such as Art of Living or ecommerce stores like Flaberry.

Other product by the startup, CODAC, targets enterprise sector and bags Snapdeal.com, Lenskart.com and many other as its clients.

Where MyOperator is  a call management and tracking system on the top of an IVR, CODAC is more of an order confirmation system on the cloud.

Bootstrapped and Profitable

Though various other cloud telephony players existed in the market before VoiceTree, still the Delhi based startup was able to strengthen its position, now turning profitable with a team of more than 40.

“Effective marketing and customer acquisition strategy has a played a big role for us”, says Ankit Jain, Founder, VoiceTree.

Though our price is on a higher side in comparison to our competitors, but enhanced product features and the product design which suited the Indian SME’s has been the key factor for our whatsoever success so far. Small and medium  businesses in India are not so much comfortable with Internet and concepts of cloud or SaaS, they just know about their business. We designed the product for them, with features they can easily grasp, while they focused on their business and daily routines, adds Jain.

The future of the startup looks bright as now it plans to go global and launch more features in its existing product, MyOperator. Also there are more products which are in the development stage which once launched, will help the company to expand its offerings for more business verticals.

Though journey so far has been very exciting and we did it while bootstrapping but now its time when we are looking to raise some capital for executing our more ambitious and larger goals, signs off Ankit.

Complementary skills in your founding team is critical for a startup’s success – CSN Murthy, Founder and CEO, Ozonetel

ProductNation interviewed CSN Murthy, Founder and CEO of Ozonetel, a leader in cloud telephony based solutions. In this freewheeling chat, Murthy, a serial entrepreneur, shares his mantras on building a successful technology based venture. Read on…

What was the motivation to start Ozonetel? 

OzoneAround 2007, after the successful exit from Intoto, we examined various opportunities in the marketplace to start a new venture. Having worked in the telecommunications space over two decades, we recognized a huge unmet need in the Indian marketplace in the area of usage of telephony by businesses. Businesses were losing out on vital customer leads and important information due to their reliance on traditional telephony based system.  We therefore setup Ozonetel during 2007-08 to solve the customers communication based challenges through cloud based telephony solutions.

Can you explain the rationale behind using cloud as a delivery mechanism of communication products/services to Indian customers?

Cloud based telephony solutions is a natural progression from the previous physical PBX solutions. On the technology front, cloud based solutions help overcome the existing limitations of telephony solutions such as missing an inbound enquiry from a prospective customer. It provides tools to track your efficiency in responding to customers. Businesses can scale quickly based on the volume of customers they deal with on a pay-as-you go basis. Thirdly, since the workforce of businesses has increasingly become mobile, a cloud based telephony solution enables a business to respond to customers without being bogged down by physical location based constraints. These and many more aspects provide unprecedented value to businesses to solve their communication challenges. So, we started offering these cloud based telephony solutions to the Indian market.

How did you get your initial set of customers? What learning did you obtain from dealing with them?

We targeted the segment of customers who were willing to experiment with our offering. The first version of our offering required significant technical expertise at the customer end to use and benefit from it. Luckily for us, our first sets of customers were mostly technology based startups who understood the value of our solution. Companies like ZipDial and Asklaila used the APIs that we provided and integrated them in the manner they preferred. Grameen Foundation, another early customer of ours took help from ThoughtWorks to integrate our solution with their other systems. We also learnt from our initial prospecting that cost was an important parameter for businesses in India.

How did the company evolve from the first offering to its current state, where it has diversified cloud product offerings? 

home_kookooAfter finding initial customer acceptance, we quickly realized that in order to scale our business and make it usable across different sectors, it was important to make our solution more consumable and usable by end customers. Towards this end, our first solution was to announce KooKoo – a telephony platform that allowed end customers to build their own applications either on voice, SMS or fax. We then further enhanced our portfolio with Bizphone – a virtual PBX solution on cloud which customers could use out of the box, with no set up costs and hardware investments. The Bizphone offering helped us cater to needs of diverse set of customers across different sectors. Based on our insight and customer feedback, we enhanced our product portfolio by introducing CloudAgent – our cloud based contact center solution for businesses that are slightly more sophisticated business communication requirements. The growth of business in India augured well for us and we now offer these solutions to businesses of all sizes and sectors.

How have you ensured that you have competitive advantage in the marketplace? 

We had the first mover advantage when we started – which helped us to garner the initial set of customers. However, as the marketplace started seeing benefits of cloud based telecommunication solutions, new competitors emerged. Having been in this domain for a fairly long time, we had envisioned this scenario – and have developed key differentiating strategies right from our inception.

Back in 2007, when we started, we could easily have integrated a solution from different vendors and provide the same to businesses to satisfy their immediate needs. We instead chose to develop the entire solution stack – right from the hardware, telecom cards and software on our own. Though this took us about 18 months, this approach helps us in minimizing our dependency on external software/hardware/technology vendors. We also are in a very good position to incorporate customer feedback on to our solution stack – since we have total control on all layers of the solution. This approach has helped us to innovate constantly and maintain an edge over the competition.

Another complementary strategy we have executed in the recent years is to ensure customer stickiness. We have constantly delighted customers with superior service and helped them scale effortlessly as their businesses have grown. Thus, many of our initial customers have now migrated from using the low-value virtual PBX solution to leveraging our high value cloud contact centre solution. This approach has helped us both retain our existing customers, as well as ensured that we earn more working with them.

What internal measures have you taken to ensure that Ozonetel retains its edge in the marketplace? 

From an operational perspective, we have ensured that the Organization has the best leaders in every functional area. Our founding team is a great mix of complementary capabilities that are required to drive excellence across all aspects of the company. Getting to specifics, on the Sales front, we have presence now in many cities. This helps in building and sustaining relationships with customers. We realized very early that physical presence is important to close a sale. Hence we took steps to ensure we were physically accessible to customer.

On the development and R&D front, given that we are a technology based company, we have a maniacal focus on developing the best solution using the latest technological developments in our domain. We have effectively used our prior working experience to provide superior post-sales support to our customers. We take customer care very seriously – and it also is one of our key differentiators from competition, due to our superior execution and empathy for customers. All these have ensured that Ozonetel as an Organization responds nimbly to external environmental changes.

On a related note, how important it is to have a good founding team? What characteristics of the top management team in your experience will enable success of the firm, especially in its formative years? 

It is absolutely critical to have leaders with complementary skills in the top management team. It is also equally important that there is good chemistry between the founding team members. Once you have the above combination in place, you will automatically be geared to deal with the uncertainties and ambiguities that confront a nascent organization. In our case, I have been very careful in signing on our founding team and the top management team. I recommend that one closely work and observe the working style of any prospective founding partner that they want to bring on board. This helps in validating the nature of contributions that the person will bring in, as well as help understand if the person gels well with the rest of team members.

Another thing that I have realized from working across multiple ventures – is to recruit your sales leader up front – right from a very initial stage. This helps in enabling the Organization to grow rapidly at later stages. The Sales leader understands the other functional units of the company better due to the fact that they worked together in the initial stages. This bonding helps immensely as the company grows.

Thank you for your insights. As a parting question, what would be the top three things that you would advice to your fellow product entrepreneurs operating out of India? 

As I reiterated, starting off with the right set of founding team members – in terms of complementary skills and good teaming is very critical to any enterprise, more specifically for a technology product based company. Secondly, as the founder, ensure that you hire right for the Organization. Do not compromise on skills or on any other aspects that affects the culture of the company. Thirdly, as many others would tell you, keep your ears close to the customer. Constantly delight them and seek to improve continuously. Success will surely follow!

Q&A with Cloud-Based Telephony Company Exotel

Exotel  Techcom “Cloud telephony product for SME’s which is like many others but we have a different approach in our problem solving.” says Shivakumar(Shivku) Ganesan, its Founder. Currently Exotel focuses on offering an easiest and fastest way to setup a phone number for your business, with smart applications tailored to business needs. He shares insights for other entrepreneurs about lessons learned in finding a market and growing a startup.

What is your Story? What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

I am a Computer Science graduate from BITS Pilani and after spending some great learning years at Yahoo! I felt I needed a challenge beyond what Yahoo! could offer. I met the Bansals “over a few smokes” and their office was really close to my house, so it sounded exciting and I decided to join Flipkart. That experience awoke my inner entrepreneurial spirit and I decided I needed a venture of my own.  

If I could point to one thing, it’s “Impact”. I get up every morning asking how I can impact more people around me and improve their lives. That’s why Roopit was solving my own problem when I was not able to buy a 2nd hand fridge, and Exotel when I could not solve the voice and SMS problems for Roopit. All of this inter connects to wanting to solve existing problems for others, using technology, and hence creating impact.  

Why and how did you start your company? Why this Area? 

I was running Roopit at that point of time, a C2C marketplace where buyers and sellers could meet and sell over voice and SMS. I was a techie all my life since BITS Pilani, Yahoo! and Flipkart and I wanted to automate the entire voice & SMS platform into a scalable solution for my business. I did not want to hire LOTS of people and build a call center; that was just not me. Also, dealing with telecom operators and trying other products in the market to solve this problem led to many frustrations.  

Then, I decided to use a bit of open source and build a platform/product for myself. In the process, I bumped into many of my friends running businesses asking for a similar solution for themselves, and with money hitting the bank from these businesses, the pivot was natural. 

What is your product’s differentiator from competitors?

Exotel is a cloud telephony product for SME’s which is like many others but we have a different approach in our problem solving. We believe that a product has to be very very simple and easy to use for firms, especially in a new space involving telephony and that’s the core of our product.

Exotel is the easiest and fastest way to setup a phone number for your business, with smart applications tailored to business needs. Anyone in India can start using the product in 15 minutes after purchasing a phone number and the application they wish to use. The application maybe IVR, voicemail, call recording, data and analytics, API, SMS or a missed call campaign, and all this without much hassle, just a simple setup. 

We have also grown and learnt that telephony infrastructure and down times in this space have been common for years, but after an initial harrowing experience with one of our early customers, we have quickly learnt and much of our product focus has been on stability, redundancy and reliability. We even openly talk about the evolution and tactics we have put in place to make up time much quicker. 

In a nutshell, quickest, easiest and most reliable phone system setup for your business. 

What is the biggest challenge Exotel has faced so far? How did you address the challenge?

As we perceive business phone systems very differently, there is no precedent to draw inspiration from. Each one of us has our own vision of Exotel and they are all just as good as mine. Arriving at clarity on what we are building, why we are building it, how to sell it, what to do, what not do to etc have been time consuming and tough. My role of fusing everybody’s ideas into mine and then creating a consistent story that all of us understand and agree upon has been challenging. 

Who is your customer?

A small or really small company up to 20 people, typically in the B2C space that depends on phone calls or SMS for a major portion of their business is our customer.

The belief is that Indian SME’s need to be “sold to” – the job that’s conventionally handled by IT resellers who are critical to Exotel’s business model. What are your thoughts on the changes that Cloud technology might bring to this scenario, with the whole “self-service” angle coming into play? 

Cloud (and SaaS) is a service delivery model, so, that does not change the sales and fulfillment models (resellers). Increasingly Indians are buying things online and they will purchase services for their companies too. But that is not going to take away the role of resellers in the short to medium term. Having said that, Who these resellers are, what they are reselling and so on changes quite a bit in the SaaS model. It is likely that the partners in the SaaS ecosystem might be IT services and other consultancy service providers rather than hardware and black-box providers.  

What are your future plans?

To create as much impact as possible in society. There are millions of SMEs, and technology hasn’t reached them. If Exotel could save their time and money so that they can go home early and spend it on their family, that is a plan worth working for.  

What have been your BIG lessons – personal, professional and otherwise? 

  • Solve someone’s problem.
  • Most Indians have a “services” bent of mind. “Product” and “SaaS” bent of minds have to be acquired/taught (learned).
  • Hire for attitude rather than/along with talent
  • It is possible to learn and excel in nearly everything.
  • Many “middle management” people from MNCs (who were very successful) are not readily suitable for a start-up.  

We see a lot of product start-ups coming up in both the enterprise and consumer space. What would be your advice to start-ups — where do you think they are lacking, and how should they go about correcting these issues? 

I don’t think I am qualified to give advice to other people yet. My entrepreneurial life is guided by two concepts: 

Curiosity: A genuine desire to learn new things and correct one’s mistakes.

Self-motivation: The need to get somewhere in life (being driven).