India may have found its long-awaited indigenous video-conferencing solution in Vconsol, developed by Alappuzha, Kerala-based Techgentsia Software Technologies Private Limited. The product, on August 20, was declared the winner of the government’s ‘Innovation Challenge for Development of Video Conferencing Solution’.
The company, Techgentsia Software Technologies (TST), founded in 2009 by CEO Joy Sebastian, will receive a grant of INR 1 Cr and an additional grant of INR 10 lakhs per year, for three years for operation and maintenance, while the company sets up its video conferencing facilities in central government institutions.
Global information technology provider TST has been conducting research in the video conferencing space for more than a decade, counting American and European firms as its software-clients. The company’s founder Joy Sebastian told Inc42 that Vconsol would be launched in a limited manner, through invitation, to selected members of the public. He added that a full-scale launch would take yet some time.
“Happy to share that Vconsol, a product of Techgentsia Software Technologies Pvt. Ltd. from Alappuzha (Kerala) has won the grand challenge. My congratulations to the entire team of Vconsol for coming up with such a wonderful video conference solution,” IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote in a tweet.
“It is very heartening that young tech entrepreneurs of India, especially those from small towns, have given some amazing video conferencing solutions. This is just the beginning of an enterprising, innovative, globally competitive and AatmaNirbhar Indian software products journey.”
The competition was organised in three stages. The first stage involved the submission of the proposal. From the 1,983 submissions received by the government, 12 were shortlisted, with each applicant being given INR 10 lakhs to develop a prototype. These were evaluated by a jury, comprising of senior government officials, IT experts and academics, which shortlisted five applicants. From these, three were given INR 20 lakhs to develop a ready-to-market product while two were given INR 15 lakhs. Finally, Vconsol was chosen as the winner. The jury also decided to offer Rs 25 lakh each to three companies — Sarv Wave (Jaipur), Insta VC (Hyderabad) and HydraMeet (Chennai) — to fine-tune their products for three months.
The government announced the competition in April this year, just a couple of weeks after the country had gone into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of the lockdown, work from home norms meant that video conferencing apps gained a lot of traction, being used both by working professionals for meetings, and school and college students for attending online classes.
The US-based video conferencing app Zoom emerged a hit in India, only for the central government to issue an advisory against the use of the app due to data privacy concerns with the application. The government subsequently called upon Indian tech entrepreneurs to develop a homegrown solution for video conferencing, while also announcing a challenge for companies and individuals to develop an app on similar grounds.
In July, Reliance Jio launched JioMeet, its video conferencing app to challenge the likes of Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, among others.