/“Big Tech treating our information like their property”

“Big Tech treating our information like their property”

Prasanth Yerrapragada-Telebu

Messaging has undergone a massive change in the last couple of years. With the arrival of new platforms, most of us toggle between different messaging channels daily to connect with our loved ones, peers, colleagues, family, friends and businesses, so much so that sometimes we communicate with the same person or the brand across different channels. However, in between, there’s a possibility of getting your data or confidential information compromised, which holds a great importance, especially for organisations working remotely in today’s times. This is where Telebu, formerly known as SMSCountry, comes into play. Telebu is a tech B2B firm that develops a suite of products and solutions to improve internal and external communication for companies. It has a global footprint in about 15 countries – including India, UAE, Oman and Hong Kong – and works in public, private and government sectors. Ramesh Kumar Raja caught up with Prasanth Yerrapragada, VP – Technology, Telebu, to know more about the company and how it has been instrumental in transforming enterprise communication, particularly in the wake of the latest policy amendments by WhatsApp and big tech oligarchs ruling the roost in the messaging space. Excerpts:

What unifies the several apps and verticals that Telebu has?

We are a company focusing on Communication as a Service (CaaS). Telebu helps enterprises build better relationships with their customers and employees using SMS, Chat, Voice and Video products, APIs and SDKs.

We are India’s first communication company that solves for both enterprise and customer communication. Our product suite is complementary, integrable to one another, and offers single login accessibility.

How do you look at the trend of ‘messaging’ which has undergone an immense change with the arrival of new platforms in India?

Messaging has changed every five years, in my opinion. We started our journey with simple text messaging (SMS) back in the 90s. Over the next five years, we explored Multimedia Messaging (MMS). Then came the Bulk SMS revolution, followed by the Blackberry era, iMessage, WhatsApp.

Daily, most of us toggle between at least five different messaging channels to connect with our loved ones, peers, colleagues, family, friends and businesses. What’s worse? Sometimes, we communicate with the same person or the brand across different channels. Other times, we are conversing simultaneously with various individuals across different channels.

Imagine this if you are a brand talking to your customers. The entire communication experience is fragmented and broken. As different individuals speak to varying customers across channels, timelines, dates and events; these conversations, on most occasions, are not relevant, meaningful or contextual for your customers. Every time the customers re-initiate the discussion with your brand, they cannot pick up the conversation where they left off.

Now, we are about to witness something entirely different and unique. I call it the omnipresent messaging experience.

“Messaging has changed every five years, in my opinion. We started our journey with simple text messaging (SMS) back in the 90s. Over the next five years, we explored Multimedia Messaging (MMS). Then came the Bulk SMS revolution, followed by the Blackberry era, iMessage, WhatsApp”

How the latest policy amendments by WhatsApp have created a fear psychosis of personal information being accessed by Big Tech companies?

Well, the hysteria and fear is not dumbfounded. Amongst the many permission level changes, data collections request that WhatsApp aims to implement, I will list down a few to give you a taste of what’s in store for us, just in case you already don’t know.

WhatsApp will collect information like battery charge status, network signal strength, app versions, IP address, phone number, area codes etc. To top it off, Facebook will collect information about us from third-party services that we access using their services or platform.

It all began with Cambridge Analytica. We never paid attention to terms of service, privacy policy, or the amount of personal data we were sharing with these Big Tech companies before that. But once we opened the can of worms, all hell broke loose.

Our lives are getting governed, manipulated, regulated and snooped upon by Big Tech. Add to it instances where the Big Tech companies refused to comply with government requests in sharing the same data that they stole from us.

The saying “Nothing in life comes free” holds, after all.

I may sound like an alarmist. I am not. I am all for requesting and accessing user data but with strings attached. Most importantly, the users should have a choice of opting-in. The power has to rest with the consumers, not vice versa. There are many benefits to sharing data and information with big tech companies as well. The personalized experience that we are so used to, the recommendation engines we swear by, is possible because we share data and information with these products /services.

The problem is not having the choice. The problem is the control these Big Tech companies have on our lives. The problem is Big Tech treating our information like their property.

TelebuPing is up against some powerful software. So, how does it stand out?

Most enterprises use customer communication chat platforms, including WhatsApp, Signal, WeChat, Line or Telegram, to discuss, collaborate and share business information. The problem is that sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, stakeholders, employees, or customers share information, data and documents that are confidential in nature.

In today’s times where information is the key and most organizations are working remotely, it becomes critical for businesses to set up controls, moderations and role-based access architecture on their preferred choice of communication platform and safeguard their business secrets.

TelebuPing does just that. TelebuPing is an enterprise-first chat platform meant to protect, safeguard and secure enterprises’ business communication. With TelebuPing, we offer the power of Text, Voice, Video and Broadcast rolled into one. TelebuPing offers admin controls, end to end encryption, Moderation and Access Restrictions, Disappearing Messages, Screenshot and Content Download Alerts. Most importantly, TelebuPing on an Organizational Directory-Based Model.

To top it off, TelebuPing will soon work as a single point gateway to all your communication. With APIs, organizations can easily integrate Chat, Text Messaging, Ticketing, Emails, Social Media and your Contact Center to TelebuPing. Connect customers with the right people, escalate faster, resolve quicker and drive contextual conversations with your customers to sell, service and support them better.

With TelebuPing, we are looking to help organizations drive revenues, improve CSAT and NPS, and reduce TATs.

“In today’s times where information is the key and most organizations are working remotely, it becomes critical for businesses to set up controls, moderations and role-based access architecture on their preferred choice of communication platform and safeguard their business secrets… TelebuPing does just that”

Why tech oligarchs like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook etc. are now losing market dominance over their new tech policies and privacy updates and how Indian apps are replacing them slowly and steadily through their perfect demonstration of technology integrated innovation?

India is one of the largest application markets globally and has been growing significantly over the years. Our current government has launched many initiatives to boost India’s entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem, like Startup India, AtmaNirbhar Bharat and Vocal for Local initiatives.

Other factors – such as socio-political standoffs, cost, data privacy and security concerns, and demand for localized support – have triggered a more extensive adoption of homegrown apps in India.

Another critical reason that homegrown apps beat their foreign counterparts is their understanding of the local markets, pain points and problems. Take TelebuJoin for example, we have built a made in India video conferencing platform that caters to the masses. We focused on adding scale, tackling connectivity and infrastructure problems, and maximizing reach and impact for small businesses.

Apps like MX Takatak, FAU-G etc, focused on adding the local flavour to capture the imagination of the masses and have been quite successful in doing so.

As reported by Apps Flyer, India’s app market constituted 38.5% of the global mobile application market, surpassing China and the US in 2020. There were approximately 7.3 billion app installations that happened in 2020. It further states that mobile consumption witnessed a surge amongst Tier 2, 3, and 4 cities primarily for finance, gaming, and entertainment apps.

Mark my words, we will witness a new era of growth backed by desi tech companies in the next decade.

What has been the impact of on-going pandemic on Telebu’s business and operations?

We are happy to report that business operations didn’t get affected due to the pandemic for more than a couple of weeks. After all, we are an enterprise communication company.

Our products had been tested and vetted by our customers and ourselves way before the pandemic began. Internal adoption of tools and technology has always been a high priority for us as an organization. We could retrain our teams quickly on our products and other tools like Asana, JIRA, Clockify etc.

The challenge we faced was not of digital adoption. It came in the form of people management, strategic transformations, realigning business goals, process implementation and more.

Another challenge we faced was in regards to employee on-boarding and training. But these were a few wrinkles that we were able to iron out quickly.

From a business point of view, we were the lucky ones who saw growth in revenues, users, number of accounts and ticket size.

The number of inquiries on our platform increased by 100% W-o-W between March 2020 to July 2020. Not just this, the number of clients we on-boarded in FY 2019-2020 is equal to the number of clients we have on-boarded in less than six months in FY 20-21.

If we compare Y-O-Y growth, we have been adding 3x more customers per month compared to the same month last year.

If we talk about grptalk and Telebu Join, we saw 30% M-o-M growth in users for FY 20-21. We have hosted more than 40,000+ meetings so far on TelebuJoin, with an average of 25 participants per meeting. Our contact centre platform TelebuHub has 3x more customers and now contributes to more than 15% of our total revenues.

For our newer products like TelebuPop, TelebuPing and Telebu Blocks, we have successfully had an organic Beta rollout to our existing set of customers. And, so far, their response has been positive. More than 10% of existing customers have opted in to use them.

What is the current user base of Telebu?

Overall, as an organization across products, we have more than 10,000+ registered businesses working with us. Out of the 10,000+ users, more than 50% of our users transact with us every month. Our India vs Overseas spilt would be 80/20.

If we were to split the user base product-wise, it would be like- 40% SMS, 30% grptalk, 15% TelebuHub, 10% TelebuJoin and 5 % rest of the products.

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