Zoom India Head Sameer Raje- Edexlive | #education | #technology | #training

With 2021 drawing to a close, a second year of living amid a pandemic also comes to an end. The pandemic has not only changed the way we live, work and study, it has also given the world access to cutting-edge and disruptive technology. Among these technological advances is Zoom, which enabled millions to receive an education and attend meetings at work while stuck at home during lockdown. But with schools and offices opening up, what happens to such a platform?

In a candid conversation with Edexlive, Sameer Raje, Zoom India’s General Manager and Head, tells us about the company’s ever-evolving products, how it has revolutionised education and the way we work and what to expect in the future. Excerpts:

Now that schools, colleges and offices are reopening, there will be a decreased reliance on Zoom. What are the steps Zoom India is taking to stay relevant?
With academic institutions switching from remote to hybrid to in-person learning and back again over the past 18 months, faculty, administrators and students had to re-examine their notions of what the new paradigm of education looks like. The application of Zoom as a platform has already gone beyond teaching and learning. It is actively being used for parent-teacher meetings, faculty interviews, tutoring sessions, community events and more such activities. Institutions of higher education are even running their student placements on Zoom. Guests from around the world can enlighten and challenge without leaving home.

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What is Zoom’s projected growth over the next couple of years in India?
Half a million businesses globally choose Zoom for their critical communications. Our total revenue for the third quarter was $1.05 billion, up 35% year-on-year and our second billion dollar-plus quarter. The year-over-year growth in revenue for the quarter was driven by a healthy mix of new and existing customers, with existing customers accounting for 26% of the incremental revenue, up from 19% a year ago.

The India story is also quite similar. Thousands who had gone back to their hometowns are spending less, saving more and still not going to workplaces on all days of the week. For them, Zoom is not just a video conferencing tool but more of a work collaboration mechanism. In India, we are focused a lot on the SMB segment which is our mass market. On the other hand, large enterprises are also consolidating and have realised the power of online collaboration in a hybrid work model and the many benefits it brings to them. These employers are now building tools other than the conventional IT systems to make Zoom a part of their daily work environment.

In terms of verticals, there are two segments that are key for us — the education segment and the healthcare/pharma segments — and we are seeing a lot of uptake in both these areas. The primary reason why we have been able to pace our growth is because we are deeply driven by our customer requirements and we have evolved consistently and quickly to service their changing requirements. Over the last couple of years, our brand has even become a verb, with a meaning all its own. That might be the ultimate compliment that any company can receive.

Blended learning is one of the proponents of a post-COVID world. Tell us how Zoom would enable that.
Flexible, customisable and technology-enhanced learning opportunities can improve access to high-quality learning and this is something that we at Zoom understand well. Most schools and colleges use some or the other Learning Management System (LMS) as part of their digital learning environment. Zoom has the capability to integrate with some of the most popular LMS platforms like Blackboard, Canvas, Desire2Learn and so on. This allows educators and learners to schedule and start Zoom meetings or access cloud recordings right from their LMS, thereby enabling blending learning at the pace and time of time of their choosing.

One can even invite guests from outside the school’s faculty, such as a guest lecturer to meetings and pre-assign students to Breakout Rooms directly within your LMS. This makes for an even more seamless workflow so educators can focus on teaching and student engagement, not on the logistics of the lesson. Launched earlier this year, Focus Mode was designed with the digital learning environment in mind. When enabled, it allows teachers and other co-hosts to see all students’ videos so they can supervise the class. Students, however, can only see hosts, co-hosts and their own video feed — not other students.

AR and VR hold tremendous potential for further enhancing blended learning environments and we will already be seeing them come into usage in collaboration platforms like Zoom. We have tools available today that bridge distance and language allowing communities of students to gather together to broaden their understanding and challenge their assumptions.

How has Zoom improved digital knowledge accessibility in Tier II cities?
Technology and education are not mutually exclusive. At Zoom, we believe access to a high-quality education is a fundamental right, and the foundation to a bright and thriving future for all our children. That’s why education has been a main focus area for us and will continue to be so. Zoom has provided its platform free of cost to over 125,000 educational institutions across the world including India, as part of Zoom Cares. We also provided training and resources to help more than 35,000 educators teach remotely on Zoom as part of our Zoom Summer Academy.

Zoom provides innovation for better education. One such example is the transcription and translation function. Students who are unable to attend class can read the transcription, which can be translated in up to 12 languages, to ensure they don’t fall behind. Zoom is proud to facilitate connections and collaboration to people in remote regions of the country. We support Teach For India to help provide opportunities for children in some of India’s lowest-income communities to learn from India’s brightest minds. Zoom offered the ease of use, flexibility, and reliability that students needed to attend virtual classes, and the functionality teachers needed to deliver the curriculum effectively. Our new stop incoming video feature allows educators to instantly cut incoming video feeds of others in the meeting, replacing them with participants’ profile pictures. This majorly reduces bandwidth usage which is of special concern in small towns and rural areas.

Zoom has been plagued by security concerns before. What has the company done to allay people’s fears?
While Zoom faced security concerns, it was in the past year and has not always been the case. Last year, we witnessed an unprecedented growth on our platform with unique users leveraging Zoom in various different ways. This growth and shift in usage pattern brought to light certain security challenges and also highlighted the need to make the required changes to enable the usage of our platform in new found ways. Zoom was built to serve as a collaboration and communication tool for enterprises. Enterprises have elaborate security systems and IT teams in place, who customise the security setting for secure meeting environments. With the onset of pandemic, we suddenly saw a huge retail consumer use case, which was not anticipated. However, security and privacy are the cornerstones of everything we do. With robust and granular controls, you can customise your data and security. We consistently upgrade our security and privacy features and do a lot of outreach to educate users on the usage of these controls. 

What new features can be expected in the subsequent versions that can make Zoom more user-friendly?
Zoom is continuously developing new products, features and partnerships designed to empower and engage with hybrid models through connected workstreams. Some of our latest features include:
– Video Engagement Center will reimagine how we interact with our end customers, Zoom Video Engagement Center (VEC), which will be launched in early 2022, will be an easy-to-use, cloud-based solution that enables experts and end customers to connect over video. Built with the same cloud-first scalability and trusted video architecture, Zoom VEC will raise the customer experience bar for organisations in every industry.
– Workspace Reservation provides a safe and frictionless on-site experience is critical with the rise of hybrid work where employees can both work from home and the office. Releasing in public beta later this month, Workspace Reservation enables users to easily book spaces using an interactive map whether they are on-site or remote, creating a seamless experience for all employees.  
– Zoom Apps are built to optimise meeting workflows. Later this year, we plan to make integration of Zoom Apps available throughout the platform, including Zoom Apps for Webinars, Zoom Apps for Mobile, and immersive apps, which will enable even more immersive and collaborative app experiences. Zoom Apps gives users  enough screen space to collaborate with the ability to expand and collapse the Apps side panel, open your app in a new window and switch between multiple Zoom Apps at once.
– Zoom Rooms that allow the hybrid workforce to re-enter offices safely, providing them a touchless experience from setting up a meeting room to a virtual receptionist — we have already entered the future! With break-out rooms, kids can call a teacher into their room, or the teacher can move from room to room, checking in and understanding progress of separate groups and giving more personalised feedback to smaller groups.

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