Techgentsia: A village-based video conferencing start-up's Zoom challenge

Topics Video Calling | Zoom

Sebastian’s 10-year-old firm just won the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s Digital India “Grand Challenge” to develop such a video conferencing solution
When Joy Sebastian, from Kerala’s Alappuzha district, completed higher secondary education from a government school 25 years ago, he wanted to become a teacher, passionate as he was about mathematics and science. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that he would one day find himself on the national centre stage.

The 44-year-old and his company, Techgentsia Software Technologies, are in the news for having developed a world-class video conferencing solution — and winning a challenge to take on Zoom. The solution, Vconsol, is the Indian equivalent of Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and other such platforms that are keeping the world connected in this unprecedented time.

Sebastian’s 10-year-old firm just won the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s Digital India “Grand Challenge” to develop such a video conferencing solution. The award means Techgentsia will get financial support of Rs 1 crore, with an additional Rs 10 lakh for the next three years for operation and maintenance, from the government. And, Vconsol will be installed at Union government offices.

Vconsol can support up to 80 active and 300 passive participants. The app currently supports eight Indian languages, apart from English, which was the requirement of the challenge. Going forward, the company is looking to add more languages.

For Sebastian, this is a moment to celebrate. He comes from a humble background: his father was a fisherman and mother a homemaker. Some years after finishing school, he enrolled for a computer science course in 1996. That was, in fact, the first time he laid eyes on a computer.

After college, he joined a company called Avenir in Kochi in 2000. The firm was funded by a non-resident Indian from Kerala who was settled in the US. Sebastian was assigned to a team that was developing an audio conferencing solution. Unfortunately, the project did not take off due to connectivity issues, though the solution, he says, was effective. The company eventually shut down.

Nearly a decade later, in 2009 to be precise, as the telecom sector was picking up in India, the same investor approached Sebastian to revisit the project. That’s how Techgentsia Software Technologies was born.

Over the years, Sebastian and his team of 65 people have developed solutions for video conferencing that are being used by companies in various countries. For instance, Norway-based Easymeeting, a premium conference service provider, uses Techgentsia’s engine for HD video. There is also the US-based Kypura and a company in Ireland, among others. He says in all, they cater to six firms in India and abroad, generating a revenue of $1.5 million.

Techgentsia is determined to expand its presence to both Indian and international markets, and is especially looking at B2B (business-to-business) markets.

“We would like to go with the enterprise market with video conferencing solutions customised for them,” says Sebastian. “Maybe, we will go to the public market with another solution that could be used simply by downloading it.”

In B2B, the immediate focus is telemedicine, online education, retail, ERP solutions, telecom providers and others, he adds. The company, which is targeting a revenue of around $10 million by the end of 2022, he says, is developing its own data centre and hosting solution.

Ask him what Vconsol’s major differentiator and unique selling proposition is and he says it is the quality of the video and audio — and also the security solutions. All this, and that the pricing is on a par with other solution providers, he adds.

“Vconsol, however, will not be free for the time being,” Sebastian informs. The cost involved in its making and marketing will make Vconsol chargeable after “a free trial of maybe a week,” he adds.

The fee, he promises, won’t be high. “We are in the process of finding resources for sufficient investment that can broaden our clientele. By March 2021, the company hopes to get a million users across continents,” he adds.

The demand for video conferencing tools has skyrocketed since the world was gripped by the pandemic. The global video conferencing market is expected to reach around $9.55 billion by 2024, witnessing growth at a CAGR of 9.93 per cent during the period spanning 2020-2024, according to reports. It is a good time to be in this business. And Sebastian knows that.

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