IceWarp is redefining India’s collaboration market: Pramod Sharda, CEO

We are the best fit as a collaboration company with the right flexible plans for India Inc., says Pramod Sharda, CEO, IceWarp India.

The collaboration market in the modern enterprise world has moved beyond emails. The new age tools facilitate real time and immersive collaboration across the users in the enterprise and with the external customers. The US headquartered company is inflicting competition to traditional technology providers globally, including India. CIO India spoke to Pramod Sharda, CEO, IceWarp India, to know more on the company’s value prop to CIOs and CTOs in the region, the collaboration market and other topics.

Edited Excerpts

Where is the collaboration headed towards in 2017 and how do you see IceWarp play into this market?

Collaboration has grown much beyond basic calendaring, scheduling and other tasks for an organization. It is now about how closely the users are working on the projects in sync with others in the company. Earlier, there were projects with emails, attachments, chats, video calls, audio calls. Multiple means of communication are not required as the theme has shifted towards how transparent you are, how quick you are accessible and how you can prepare yourself towards the company’s goals.

Besides IceWarp’s collaboration suite, we have launched TeamChat which is a mini place where people with corners to work collaborate instantly in private or public. They can exchange views and publish things much faster. We want to cut down the communication process of email attachments, separate video calls etcetera. Users can have an instant online meeting video call or change the review and so on. Everybody works at same time together with an instant feedback mechanism too.

Collaboration is becoming quicker, transparent, result oriented and immersive. Do you see the technology move down the organization’s hierarchy?

Since early 2016, the shift has happened as collaboration is now spiralling down the organizations. The organizations has used this medium to become more environment friendly for the employees. The concept of intranet connect has given way to collaborators' environment, Collaboration is drilling the concept down to the team members of a company as they are collaborating with other apps too like HR has to be part of collaboration. The external apps of company also like to get collaborative and be attached to this platform. People are finding ways the mandate to find a collaborative tool to get people on board in a big and unified way.

You compete against big boys like Microsoft and Google. Does this market work more as cost driven technology or brand push tactic?

Many organisations in India have gone ahead with the collaboration solutions from vendors like Microsoft, Google and others. Now they know what they want and what they don’t want. Today that’s our advantage as the customers are well educated and well aware of the technology. We believe the market for IceWarp is huge. We have different plans and flexible options for customers. The pricing strategy of Google and Office follows a rigid approach which crashes with the flexible plans. We have not customised buy highly flexible plans like for example a back office of a company might need less bandwidth and the front office users can opt for high bandwidth plans.

The cost is not the reason for CIOs today but it is about TCO which is more important than ROI. TCO becomes almost half with us compared to other solutions as it is about what you want what you will actually use and pay for it. We are best fit as we are in the right place in the right time at right plans.

TCO becomes almost half with IceWarp compared to other solutions in the marketplace as it is about what you want, what you will actually use and what you pay for it.

What typical roadblocks have you encountered with CIOs and CTOs of India companies? Does POC come to the rescue?

The common roadblock is not our product and its features but sometimes many of the customers ask about our late entry into India. Collaboration market is more known for vendors like Google and Microsoft. We now have reference customers in India and now we are more aggressive in branding and reach out to the market. This year from January 2017, we have a complete suite of collaboration tools for the customers to have an experience the features of IceWarp from mail server to UC to MDM.

IceWarp policy in India has been to push the customers for POC. The success rate of conversion is nearly 100% with POCs as our product is strong and delivers more than expected. We do free POC free for any customer - small or big - as it is an investment for us. We encourage partners to for POCs with their customers.

India Inc. seems underpenetrated in collaboration tools across the segment size and vertical type.

India is just rising and picking up as it has moved beyond just email. It was never collaborative environment as social media like Facebook has given the right thrust.  The new age entrepreneurs with new leadership are exploring high potential ideas. I think India market has been under serviced too besides being under penetrated as most of the organisations didn’t have the choice to implement collaboration suite at the right price.

Last year, logistics was the highest contributor last year. BFSI and FMCG was a good vertical for Icewarp too. We work with large B2C companies across verticals which includes from 50 users as high as 22,000 users in India. Government companies have given us good opportunities because of the product strength and the government’s focus on digital India, smart city and other initiatives. We have completed over half a dozen government projects in India. This year the focus is more on government through a dedicated team. Most of Government projects are completely on open source. IceWarp is not open source but it facilitates open source technology (you can install on windows or Linux) and we are competing against the sole open source vendor.

Any suggestions for Indian CIOs as they devise their collaboration strategy?

They should be very clear if they want to have the collaboration done internally or externally. They have many ideas but to get the internal people and external people to come on common platform creates a big question and some roadblocks. The security clearance and other things takes time that leads to delay.

Get as much people of the company connected on the same platform. Use collaboration tool which is simple with a single interface. For example there is different interface in technology exchange for email, Skype for video which takes away from customer experience. It is good for CIOs to implement great technology but the friendly user interface is a absolutely important. The people have moved from desktops to smartphones and hence the transition for user has to be seamless with tools with a futuristic approach.

Collaboration is a big market available for us as organisations move from older versions to new ones. And they want an alternative which is a good product as it involves high cost to migrate the data collected over the past ten to fifteen years. We have successfully migrated the data of many Indian businesses ranging up to 2000 plus users too.