Our guide to India-made video-conferencing apps
Thinking of having those long-haul video-chats on a home-grown app? We lay out the ones worth a gander
The whole of last week I have been sitting outside digital waiting rooms trying out Made In India video-chatting apps, alternatives to Zoom which saw 6,700% growth in free user sign ups in India between January and April 2020. The meetings, on entry, I must confess, have been revelatory and exciting. If the global COVID-19 pandemic pushed us into the virtual meeting space, the banning of 59 Chinese apps by the Government of India steered the flow towards founding and use of this new breed of locally-made apps — largely because many companies, governments, individuals and the Ministry of Home Affairs protested against US-founded Zoom for the fact that its data servers were in China.
Suddenly, there are a number of apps to choose from and as many questions regarding them. Do these video platforms need to be installed? Can they be used large scale? Are users keen to use an Indian-made app right away, as the first two years in an app’s life cycle is still a trial-and-error period?
We give a low-down on a few Made In India video-chatting applications that are not only offering a competitive choice but also giving Indians pride in using a home-grown app.
Developed by Data Ingenious Global under the guidance of founder, Ajay Data, VideoMeet received a Certificate of Appreciation from Ministry of Electronics and IT, Government of India in ‘Made in India Video Conferencing Innovation Challenge’ in July 2020. VideoMeet provides no restriction on the number of people participating in the meeting. It can support 2,000-plus people specially designed keeping in mind the structure of Indian businesses ranging from MSMEs to big corporations, and the platform, for now, is available free of cost.
VideoMeet keeps the data stored within the country, as it is hosted locally, and hence ensures complete data security. It allows users to initiate and experience high-definition (HD), multi-point audio/ video collaboration without dedicated telecom networks.
A smartphone without the SIM card with only a Wi-Fi connection can attend the meeting easily via this platform. Plus, for corporate functioning, the entire VideoMeet solution can also be customised as per the needs of the corporate. Participants’ email addresses will not be shared.
There is a versatility to this app too; live-streaming on Facebook and YouTube is integrated, and users can look forward to customised branding features also available for hosting events, webinars, intra and inter-office meetings.
Data compression technology helps in optimising the data used per conference call. It is a perfect fit for hosting multiple meetings in a single day, without worrying about the data usage. The feature of music/audio share apart from microphone has also been recently incorporated in the application, making it ideal to host concerts, jam sessions, and music classes.
There are currently many memes about how JioMeet, by Reliance Industries, seems to be a UX carbon copy of Zoom. This platform is a network and device agnostic solution, offering up to 24 hours of free video-conferencing that are encrypted and password-protected. Such features are ideal for tapping into the fast-emerging virtual wedding market space.
One can also look forward to a safety feature that gives the conference host sovereignty to restrict guests from joining a meeting without signing in and disclosing their identity.
A bootstrapped company, UDo Now, was launched in 2019 by Hyderabad-based leadership development consultant, Tejas Gudluru.
Pre-COVID-19, UDo Now was a one-to-one, expert advice freelancing app that enabled freelancers to connect with a wider range of clients. Its predominant users were professional freelancers such as doctors, lawyers, and educators; and its user-base count was roughly between 15,000 to 20,000. Now, post-COVID-19, UDo Now opened itself to multiple users in a single meeting and hosted one of the first webinars. It also integrated payments into video conferencing, through its events feature that lets any one registered as expert on the app create live sessions/events/classes on the app and monetise it.
One lakh users have signed up till August with almost 200 calls facilitated daily. It meets all security levels required by the industry. No meetings are recorded by the vendors, and the user can record meetings according to payment plans. It can live stream or broadcast to 3,000 people at a given point in time. It witnessed a surge of upto 60,000 users post COVID-19.
With plans to go international, the app is free till September, after which use for experts will cost ₹300 for a month of unlimited usage.
A Kerala-based tech start-up Skyislimit Technologies, helmed by Manodh Mohan, founded Fokuz, an advanced, secure and flexible video conferencing platform. It was developed in four months foreseeing the demand for a safe platform during the ongoing pandemic.
Improving on its 2016 SalesFokuz, a data-driven customer management software, Fokuz features user experiences such as live-streaming options to social media handles, screen shares, built-in recording features, remote support, and unlimited participants. It also has provision of automated meeting report generation via email which includes username, browser details, IP address, and location of every participant. According to the team at Fokuz, the platform sees almost 3,800 users on a daily basis and 6,000-plus registered users from all platforms. Fokuz is available across Android and iOS devices as well as Windows and macOS computers and features the option of unlimited participants. In the next two months, it will be available free of cost and can be accessed globally.
Say Namaste is a secure audio and video conferencing app designed for meetings or catchups. It was developed by Mumbai-based Inscripts, which is also fully compliant with 9001:2015 certification. The beta launch for Say Namaste was on April 17, 2020.
The first versions were only available to Google Chrome browser but Inscripts has made the app available on iOS and Android in recent weeks. According to Say Namaste’s website, they “do not store any conversations or videos on [their] servers.” [They] are developing a version to cater to the needs of SMBs and large enterprises.”
You can use Say Namaste for one-on-one conversations as well as group audio and video conferences, which support 50 participants in one call as well as screen-sharing. The entire platform infrastructure as well as all data transmission is on servers located in India. All customer data is encrypted in-transit and at-rest.
At the moment, Say Namaste has been downloaded by over one lakh users through the Google Play store, and has an average 4.5-star rating on both Play Store and App store.