Bludgeoned by the crosswinds of politics, competition and potential loss of business, conferencing app Zoom on Wednesday (July 8) denied links to China. The Indian-origin president of Zoom Video Communications’ product and engineering, Velchamy Sankarlingam in a blogpost allied fears of the company’s American roots and said that Zoom was a US company, publicly traded on the NASDAQ, founded and headquartered in San Jose, California.
To buttress the company’s love for India, Sankarlingam, who is from Virudhunagar, a town in Tamil Nadu, said, “Three of Zoom’s top executives are of Indian descent: Aparna Bawa, Chief Operating Officer; Sunil Madan, Corporate Chief Information Officer; and myself.”
It wasn’t surprising that 447 of the 827 words blog was dedicated to the company’s commitment and interests to the Indian market.
The Zoom hired Sankarlingam from VMWare in May this year, to help scale the business in India and other international markets. “Zoom’s presence in India is represented on the ground by an office in Mumbai, as well as two data centers – one in Mumbai and one in Hyderabad,” he said.
Zoom has been in the center of an ongoing debate over the government’s push for self-reliance. The video conferencing app had seen a spike in downloads during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Heat Turns On In April
Zoom’s troubles began in April when the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory warning that Zoom is not a safe platform and put out a set of guidelines for individual users who may follow to ensure their safety while using the app for private purposes.
Cyber Coordination Centre, a body under the MHA, asked users to choose new user IDs and set new passwords for each meeting. It also advised hosts to enable waiting room facility on the Zoom call, as it’ll ensure that only allowed participants will be able to join the call.
According to Cyber Coordination Centre, these measures will help in curbing unauthorised entry in meetings. Also, it will prevent an authorised participant to carry out malicious activity while avoiding any DOS attack by restricting users through passwords and access grant.
The body also stated the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team’s (CERT-In) concerns about Zoom’s security. The cybersecurity group had issued two advisories citing that Zoom platform is prone to malicious attacks.
Competitors Close In For The Kill
Seeing the opening, Zoom’s competitors began ramping up their solutions. Google had mandated that its employees don’t use Zoom. However, the biggest competition came when Mukesh Ambani — India’s richest man — launched JioMeet on July 3. It’s uncanny resemblance to Zoom, at hindsight seems like a good plan to replace the app.
In its first week since going live, JioMeet has introduced six new features which would prevent hackers from entering a meeting. These include personal meeting rooms with the ability to set one’s own meeting password to facilitate recurring meetings such as school classes and daily meetings. Further, users will now be able to enlarge and pin another participant by double-clicking their window. The new features have been rolled out for Android users and will be soon available to iOS users as well.
JioMeet has already been downloaded by more than 1 Mn users. The app has garnered a lot of attention for the fact that it’s completely free for use, and boasts of an enviable list of features. Its time-limit of 24 hours for a free group video meeting tops that of its competitors in the space since other apps like Google Meets and Zoom only allow a free video call for 60 and 40 minutes respectively.
Zoom Boycott Call
In a big push for Reliance Jio’s video-conferencing platform JioMeet, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the apex body of around 7 Cr traders of India, has advised traders and trade associations across the country not to use Zoom for communication and opt for JioMeet.
The trade body said the move is part of its “boycott Chinese products” mission statement under “Bhartiya Saamaan – Hamara Abhimaan.” CAIT national president BC Bhartia and secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said, “Our decision merits a cryptic explanation just so that all others in the country take note and consider the same. Zoom is owned by one Eric Chuan and has shown admitted vulnerability to wilt under pressure from authorities in mainland China. This startling fact, albeit followed by hasty claims on part of Zoom that capitulation won’t be repeated, is part of the record.”
Fall Of A Favourite
According to a SensorTower report, Zoom had the most number of downloads from India. Zoom was installed in around 6 Mn Indian smartphones out of the total 80 Mn installs worldwide during the first quarter of 2020. Sensor Tower said that the impact of the coronavirus was evident with the success of video conferencing apps like Zoom.