New age conferencing

None | ByPuneet Mehrotra
Oct 08, 2005 05:05 PM IST

A corporate, a bunch of honchos and a necessary evil. That more or less sums up the story of conferencing, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

"No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there."   Francis Scott Fitzgerald

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HT Image

A corporate, a bunch of honchos and a necessary evil. That more or less sums up the story of conferencing. Whether conferencing is necessary or not is a question of academic interest. Of interest here is the evolution of conferencing and how technology has redefined it.

The Good Old Days

"The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest." Said William Blake. Unfortunately wine isn’t a thirst quencher, water is. Grand old habits don’t run a business, business sense does.  Money is a scarce commodity and conferencing is necessary. Putting the equation together gone are the grand old days of conferencing, which entailed travel to exotic locations and rejuvenation that came free with it.

On the other hand events like September 11 brought about a whole new regime of restrictions. US being the hub of commercial enterprise and naturally the conferences became a traveler’s nightmare overnight with massive restrictions and beefed security checks. The realization hit the companies that why waste time at the airport and rack up travel expenses when cheaper means are available.  Technology rules and conferencing takes a new definition straight from your shirt pocket!

The New Age Conferencing

Nope! It's not MSN or Yahoo conferencing I am talking about. I am talking about the new Audio Conferencing that lets you conference from any phone in the world. The good old landline, GSM or WLL, just about any phone in the world and you can conference.  So wherever you are, you can conduct a conference at the snap of your fingers. All you have to do is dial a local number and you can conference with your group of peers, clients, jobwork professionals, just about anyone in the world.

Entrepreneurs Rule!

If it’s back office business processing operations, it has to be India. In the last few years India has made a mark as the back office of the world’s largest corporates. Call centers, transaction processing, web development and internet applications to name a few have been industries on the rising graph.  An immediate need has been for conferencing.  Cutting costs and September 11 created a new way of conferencing and thus the popularity of Audio Conferencing.

Currently few companies offering this facility in India are Touchtel,, Cyberbazaar (WebEx). Touchtel is part of the Bharti group. The interesting one is perhaps offers the highest levels of personalized conferencing services to customers which include welcome messages, notification of emails etc for each conference setup.  So each of their customer can actually present to the world that they have their own bridge for conferencing while using the company’s bridge. also has a full-blown Telecom R&D and is currently one of the leaders in the industry.

The worldwide market is huge. In US, AT&T & MCI alone do more than US$500 million worth of conferencing business. Along with them, there are more than 50 other conferencing solution providers in US with annual revenues ranging from $20 million to $50 million. In India, the market is very virgin right now. The penetration of the service is limited to not more than 500 companies across the country. With all the globalization happening, every company with their clients, partners, principals overseas is a potential user of the conferencing service and the potential is huge.

Right now in India, the combined port capacity of all players is less than 2,000. One of the biggest companies in the world in the same space has more than 150,000 ports globally. is perhaps one of the leaders of the lot with a presence in US, South East Asia, Europe and major towns in India.

Conferencing Trivia

I came across an interesting quote by Will Rogers "The United States never lost a war or won a conference".  Make whatever you want of it!

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