Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a new buzz word in tech circle and communication management firms are not far behind in their attempt to explore AI. US-based Avaya is working to provide smart connectivity and artificial intelligence tools to its customers. In an interview with EC’s Mohd Ujaley, Vishal Agrawal, managing director, India and SAARC, Avaya said, “AI will play very pivotal role and the basic mundane knowledge based queries where the human discretion is not required to resolve customer issues will move to AI over a period of time”
How did the market perform in 2016 vis-a-vis Avaya?
In 2016, we saw both Avaya and market rapidly transforming. From a market perspective firstly, we saw lot of traction in terms of the government digitisation strategies, secondly, we saw a lot more investment in technology in mid-market and commercial enterprise space. Thirdly, we saw customer engagement experience which was more in the voice only area for last few years. We started seeing that becoming more omnichannel and more digital. We did also see some good momentum in the different government initiative like education, some thought process in moving from conceptualization to the detailed lining around Smart Cities and emergency response system is another area. Overall, it has been – from a market perspective, right from government to large enterprise to mid-market is going through a transformation.
With respect to Avaya, specifically in India, we worked in many directions which made our story much stronger than ever. We launched new products such as Equinox and Oceana which are very closer to the market reality. In terms of the mid-market we increased our reach and coverage and we acquired more than 400 customers in the last year. In government, we worked with two governments Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh on the emergency response systems and we actually spread it ourselves quite in the networking space. So on and on it was a very positive year for us and we are poised for growth in the current year.
You mentioned about omni-channel, how Avaya is placed in this segment?
A true omni-channel experience is the one which we are committing is basically irrespective of the channel that you are covering it whether its phone or email or its social media or website or any other mode through a web application anywhere you communicate your experience should be same to the organisation and when you move through the multiple channels the context should remain and it should be in a position to seamlessly move the context from one channel to the other channel so the whole customer journey should be maintained.
We have recently launched the Oceanalytics, a platform that allow communicating through different communication layer. We also have an application interface and development platform on java which we call Avaya breeze that allows users to integrate with different business applications. In this way, we are very unique and different from others.
You have worked with two state governments – Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Are there any other states that you are exploring?
The third that is in the progress is Rajasthan. In Rajasthan, we are putting all the seven cities, but currently we are putting the emergency response system at the regional level, then we have one small one right now which is only for Tamil Nadu which is for the capital. Different states understand the scale and the efficiency. Emergency response system will be the first wave of digitisation to reach out to the communities in distress; it will be a high focus area for next 3-4 years in the country
Artificial Intelligence tools are also getting popular, how Avaya is looking at it?
The Artificial Intelligence will be something like a dynamic idea, like chatbots. Beauty of Avaya is that we can help you with the Artificial Intelligence; we are working towards it to provide connectivity and world-class artificial intelligence tools. Customer engagement experience in terms of Artificial Intelligence would be something like dynamic IVR, machine to human interaction and AI to human interaction will be the second one and then human to human over chat may be the third one then human to voice then voice to video. AI will play very pivotal role and the basic mundane knowledge based queries where the human discretion is not required to resolve customer issues will move to AI over a period of time.
Some verticals that will adopt AI will be the financial sector, it would be the insurance sector, retails industry where the transactions are large, but majority of the transactions are more around knowledge mining and rule based responses, I think those are the ones which will move towards AI.
Avaya has three research and development centres (R&D) in India. How they have performed over the years?
We do around 35-40% developments out of India. Many of the product lines are owned by the center and it continues to be a strategic location investment. We have R&D sector in three places in Pune, Hyderabad, and Bangalore. Globally around one third of the development work happens out of India. India is the second largest global center after US
Companies are pushing for software defined solutions. How it has worked-out for you?
In the market there is a place for everybody the organisations will continue to evolve and focus on customer needs in the coming era which is much more software based solutions. We are aggregating the hardware where you can buy switch from any one of our vendors and we provide you with the software. The new phones which we are launching which is Avaya vantage is absolutely an android based phone which can be mounted. The customers are looking for products which are open and the communication can be used as a platform, it can be integrated with the business applications. The era of having an EPBX or network or wireless and insulated architecture or an insulated solution is gone. Avaya is in that journey and I think for that matter any of the organisations who have evolved themselves will survive and if we keep pace with the market demands which Avaya is doing then those organisations will definitely survive.