Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

How Tata Communications and Cisco's Webex Calling is set to transform cloud communication in India

This new launch is expected to help enterprises scale their communication infrastructure without upfront investments in server hardware. In an exclusive joint interaction with Forbes India, Daisy Chittilapilly, president, Cisco India & SAARC, and Arijit Bonnerjee, senior vice president and head, India, Tata Communications, talk about AI-led innovation, future growth areas and more

Naini Thaker
Published: May 23, 2024 05:39:55 PM IST
Updated: May 24, 2024 11:28:58 AM IST

How Tata Communications and Cisco's Webex Calling is set to transform cloud communication in IndiaArijit Bonnerjee, senior vice president and head, India, Tata Communications (L) and Daisy Chittilapilly, president, Cisco India & SAARC; Image: Selvaprakash Lakshmanan for Forbes India 

Global communications technology player Tata Communications and technology giant Cisco on Wednesday strengthened their 20-year partnership with the launch of Webex Calling, for enterprises in India. Known as Webex Calling by Tata Communications, with cloud Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), it will be a first-of-its-kind service in India that will be offered by integrating Cisco’s Webex Calling with the cloud voice services of Tata Communications GlobalRapide platform. 

“This marks a significant milestone in our partnership with Cisco, driving innovation and delivering an intelligent interaction fabric for enterprises in the digital era,” says Arijit Bonnerjee, senior vice president and head–India, Tata Communications.

This new service is a modern and complete business phone system that delivers enterprise-grade calling through a globally available cloud platform with over 14 million users around the world. “Hybrid work has heightened the need for enterprises to deliver seamless, secure and reliable collaboration experiences. Webex Calling simplifies businesses' cloud transition through flexible migration choices, top-notch reliability, and AI (artificial intelligence)-driven collaboration tools and devices,” says Daisy Chittilapilly, president, Cisco India & SAARC. So far, Webex Calling has been available globally in over 150+ markets, but it will now be available in India with Tata Communications Cloud PSTN reach and local regulatory expertise.

With this new offering, enterprises can scale their communication infrastructure while complying with applicable laws in India, without upfront investments in server hardware. Yet, one of its biggest differentiators is that users across the country will have access to additional collaboration workloads in the Webex Suite, including meetings, messaging and webinars, AI-powered innovations such as audio intelligence, and a complete range of devices and more. “We are the only platform today that inter-operates with many of our competitors,” says Chittilapilly.

During an exclusive joint interaction with Forbes India, Chittilapilly and Bonnerjee talk about this new partnership, AI-led innovation and potential growth areas for Cisco and Tata Communications. Edited excerpts:

On launching in India

Daisy Chittilapilly: There was a big shift that happened pre and post pandemic—99 percent of meetings have at least one remote participant. This means people who need access to the collaboration universe are now in retail shop floors, factory shop floors and a large breed of gig workers who are working from home. There is an acceptance to having remote participants, even in the most traditional of industries.

Second, the economics. Many businesses in India cannot afford the complexity of having on present-on-premise infrastructure. We have a lot of customers jointly, who have Webex meetings on one side and also manage an on-premise calling infrastructure from Cisco or from anybody else. We’re bringing in tech which can significantly crash time to market and take away management complexity, while reducing cost for the end customer. And customer experience is the single differentiator for two-thirds of all companies in the world. There's a transition from what used to be customer service to now customer experience.

So, it's an idea whose time has come. It's not that the tech did not exist earlier, but its demand is very high at this point, especially for a capability like this even in medium-sized to small-sized companies. India's ready for it now.

Arijit Bonnerjee: When it comes to areas such as customer experience, employee productivity, automation—anything to drive down cost—customers are not holding back on spending. Also, I think given the sheer scale of opportunity in India, there is never a wrong time to launch anything in the country. Plus, I think there's a huge focus on D2C that this country is going to see over the next couple of years. A lot of D2C startups that are coming up will be looking at Webex Calling by Tata Communications, as a quick on-the-cloud solutions. So, I think there is a lot of potential.

On AI-led innovation

Bonnerjee: We are launching our own AI cloud in India with our partnership with Nvidia. It's not only offering the GPU infrastructure as a service, but we are also going to offer the platform, on top of the service where customers can develop their LLMs, create business use cases etc.

We are also integrating a lot of AI and generative AI capabilities into our own offerings that we're taking to the customer—for instance, our cloud and security offering, where there's a lot of AI-based functionality features. Generative AI and AI in general are now part of our overall digital fabric.

Also read: What Indian managers should know about Generative AI

Chittilapilly: We've always been a company at the forefront of automation. We would like to automate mundane tasks out for humans for two reasons—nobody likes to do mundane stuff and to avoid human errors.

AI is also embedded into our products. So, for example, the WebEx assistant is a great use of LLM at play. We have a firewall assistant and security so you will have assistance across all of our portfolios at the simplest level. Managing networks, data centres, security footprint at scale isn’t manually possible, which is where AI comes in to do this.

The newest and most exciting thing is Splunk, a company we acquired earlier this year. This acquisition brings the data platform play to Cisco. With Cisco plus Splunk, we will now be helping customers deploy AI in a much more responsible and ethical manner.

On potential growth areas

Bonnerjee: Over the last few years, Tata Communications has repositioned itself as a digital ecosystem enabler. We have moved into digital platform services, we have our own cloud platform, our own security platform, our GlobalRapide platform and also our own IoT platform. Today, we're horizontally integrating a lot of these platforms to provide a digital fabric to the client, which they can then use to drive their digital transformation initiatives.

We are always on the lookout for areas which would give us that business growth and return. AI is, of course, one of the areas where we are spending, and will continue to do so. We will continue to be on the lookout for anything that would help our customers drive their business growth.

Chittilapilly: AI would certainly be a growth engine for Cisco as well. Security is the other growth engine. The world, which was already complex and complicated, is becoming more so, with the advent of AI. You can't be successful in security unless you have AI; you can't be successful in AI unless you have data. Data in itself isn't meaningful, but the whole insights and observability space. These are exciting areas of growth for Cisco.

Additionally, one of the things that we find worldwide and something that happens in India as well, whenever a technology is in its hype cycle, it can consume a lot of cycles, and then people figure out that foundational elements are important to keep fixing. It is impossible to run a digital initiative of any kind, on top of a foundation that is not robust. Infrastructure modernisation may not be fashionable, but if we don't pay attention to it, everything else on top of it bombs. That’s why in addition to AI, security, data insights and observability, we will keep doubling down on our infrastructure investments as well.