“Cloud telephony can play a major role in disaster management” Exotel

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Spotlight on Critical Cloud Telephony | TelecomDrive.com

When it comes to natural calamities – maintaining lines of communications becomes one of the most critical elements when it comes to disaster management and this is where Cloud Telephony can play a major role. Bengaluru based Exotel is a cloud telephony enabler that is powering communication for enterprises, startups and SMEs in India and Southeast Asia.

Shivakumar Ganesan, CEO and co-founder of Exotel interacts with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about the company’s focus on providing innovative technology-led disaster management solutions and how cloud telephony can play a positive role here.

Whenever there is a natural disaster, there is also a tendency for chaos, fake news and at times even a complete information blackout. In such situations, how do you think technology can support and manage the information flow?

Since 2000, there have been over 75,000 deaths and about 4 lakh crore loss of revenue in India because of natural disasters, as per International Disaster Database. It is of no doubt that whenever a disaster hits, it brings along a lot of chaos and fear. During such times any help is seen as a ray of hope.

During the recent calamitous situation of Kerala flood most of the messages were circulated on social media, where people shared updates on who needed timely and urgent help – rescue, food, medicines, etc. A lot of companies worked in tandem with NGO’s and Kerala Government and leveraged their tech and logistics infrastructure to ensure adequate relief reaches the affected.

Thanks to use of innovative technologies, the process of tracking disaster struck areas and avoiding fear mongering rumours have become a little easier.

What are the challenges for companies catering to millions of people during a disaster?

There are 2 primary challenges for anyone who is looking to cater to people in the disaster zone – reliability and scale. With physical infrastructure in jeopardy, reliability becomes a big factor. This is where technology like cloud telephony comes into play.

For example, in Kerala, everyone was circulating phone numbers to reach out to potential rescuers. But as the situation worsened, most of the numbers went down. The phone numbers that were functional were not reachable because too many people were trying to reach them.

When we worked with the local rescue, police and operation teams, we helped them streamline these requests by ensuring that our numbers were always up and didn’t get clogged.

What were the initial challenges in setting up call stations and collaborating with the local rescue team, police force and several other volunteer groups?

The initial challenge was to ensure that there was absolute coordination between volunteers and the rescue teams. We also had to ensure that the communication loop was closed to ensure that the people who needed to be rescued had the correct information about the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) of the help.

With social media having the option of “mark safe” to notify everyone connected to the victim, how exactly is cloud telephony playing a different role?

The “mark safe” is an easy way to notify safety to friends and family connected on Facebook. But during natural disaster the first thing that gets affected is internet and connectivity.

In which case, with the help of cloud telephony platform, rescue teams can quickly set up helpline numbers using virtual numbers and help in reaching of the relief material to people affected, in time. Since these are virtual numbers, they can handle multiple parallel calls and the chances of a phone number being busy or unavailable are next to none.

Hence, the first obstacle of having a reliable line that is always available is overcome with the cloud telephony infrastructure. Also, the entire setup process takes less than 30 mins, making it the most convenient way to communicate during such situations. During Kerala Floods, we handled over 20,000 calls through our various rescue lines in one week.

What role can cloud communication play during any calamity?

Cloud telephony has the ability to play a major role during and and after any calamity:

1. Rescue – during a calamity, people need to get in touch with the right authorities for everything starting food, rescue, clean water, sanitation supplies, etc. cloud telephony is the right way to power a helpline number that will be highly available as well as easily scalable. There doesn’t need to be a limit on the number of people who can get in touch with the authorities using this number. This also becomes an easy low-tech way to connect volunteers with each other and everyone else involved in the rescue operations as well. In situations like this, something as simple as a clear IVR, with voice capabilities ensure that rescue operations can be run even without a large number of people manning these phone numbers.

2. Rehabilitation – once the calamity passes, the real work starts. With thousands of people displaced, there is a very high need to expedite the rehabilitation process. For example, we currently power a toll-free medical helpline that is manned by doctors from all over the country. The idea here is to have an easy access to medical care because of the dangerous nature of water borne diseases.

What are the key priorities for Exotel today?

Enterprise communication is fast moving to the cloud. We would like to be the people that make it happen across Southeast Asia. We are working towards creating a communication infrastructure that is the most reliable and does so without the hassles of a complicated system. We’ve touched the lives of over a billion people in Asia. We see this number growing greatly in the near future.

How do you as an organization look at the Indian market opportunity?

Voice communication is still the most preferred form of communication in India. Enterprise communication is moving rapidly to cloud. This means that there is no longer a need to work with “one size fits all” kind of solutions. With cloud telephony, businesses understand the operational efficiency that comes with using a platform that serves their needs the best. We are the lgo of customer communication and we offer our customers the flexibility to use us the way it suits their business best.

What are some of the innovations that Exotel is bringing to the market today?

We are continuously trying to innovate our services and products and bring something new to the table to enable our customers.

Some of recent developments include our product nOTP that allows to authenticate and verify users without any actions from their end. It is faster than the usual OTP generation process and doesn’t rely on SMS verification. It is currently available as an SDK on Android devices. nOTP costs up to 40% less than traditional verification methods and requires no action from the user’s end, making it a seamless experience.

Additionally, we recently launched Heartbeat API, which monitors the health of virtual numbers (Exophones) in real time. Customer traffic is usually at its all-time high during the festive season. This makes being available all the more important from a businesses’ point of view. The Heartbeat API will create alarms and trigger notifications in case of a downtime to reduce the customer impact.


Zia Askari
Zia Askari works as the Editor for TelecomDrive.com and carries over 18 years of experience in technology writing, branding, communications and digital marketing. Over these years, Zia has worked with Cyber Media and Grey Head on the content side and RAD Data Communications, Huawei Telecommunications and Shyam Networks on the branding and marketing side.