After JioMeet’s enterprise version soft-launched last week for free, Airtel seems to have decided to join the highly competitive video conferencing market. Reports in the Economic Times and Mint quote sources in Airtel that say that the company will soon launch a competitor to services like JioMeet and Zoom. We have reached out to Airtel for a comment.
Strangely enough, Airtel is a reseller for other videoconferencing services already — under some business plans, the telco bundles subscriptions to Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Google Meet. So, in a way, the telco already makes some money from its soon-to-be competitors. We have reached out to Cisco, Google and Zoom to see if those arrangements would continue.
Airtel told the Economic Times that it hopes to distinguish itself from competitors with data localisation and security. Zoom uses American data centres for Indian users’ meetings but does tap into Tata Communications servers in India for paid accounts. While Google has a data centre in India, it’s unclear if they use only that one for Google Meet calls. Cisco has a data centre it uses for Webex in Bangalore.
A day late and a dollar short
Airtel is a bit late to this competition. It has been months since Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, and many of the services who have been in the videoconferencing business for years have battled out their space during the pandemic. Convincing businesses to switch this late into the game is a bit of a tall order. Even Jio, which is not even charging for its JioMeet service, may face similar hurdles.
Besides, Airtel has been late this way before. When services like Viber were taking off in India, the telco announced its intention to violate net neutrality by charging separately for VoIP traffic. But before that, they launched Airtel Talk, an online calling app where calls between people with the app would be free. It’s not clear how successful Airtel Talk was, but it is no longer on the Play Store.