Saving Private CloudTelephony Part 1
I was sitting in a government office day before yesterday. It was hot and humid outside and the ceiling fan did not help much either. I did not feel much of these though. I was engrossed in explaining how Cloud Telephony works to the officer and how AudioTex license written in 1995 covers the basics of this technology.
It was very uncomfortable. I had difficulty explaining the details to him. I was thinking of the 12,000 business — the e-commerce companies, cab companies, the small business, the hospitals and schools that use our services and improve their productivity. Indian small business do not use much of enterprise technology. Their productivity is much much lower than that of developed world SMB. We are the first company selling these small businesses simple technology that can help them increase their revenue by tracking their customer communications on phone calls. They have come to depend on these tools. Even a five minute outage would lead to massive business losses for them. I explained that to him. I explained our product architecture and how calls flow — calls remaining on copper wire so that we can confirm to the regulations. How it is an essential service for so many businesses. And how we developed our own telephony architecture around remaining compliant. I am not sure how much he grasped.
We had been extra cautious on the regulations. I had watched how Uber and Ola were hurt. We had taken the licenses and were following the spirit and letter of the regulations. How come we were targeted?
None of this helped. Telecom operators were persuaded by the official. According to him call-conferencing on a PRI is not covered in Audiotex. This is the basis of our product SuperReceptionist and solutions such as virtual numbers.
En-mass a large part of our telecom lines from one of the telco disconnected without any prior notice. We actually thought that it was a technical glitch but as the night darkened the realization dawned on us. It was not a technical glitch. Large number of our lines were disconnected. Our support lines were buzzing off the hook. Everyone stayed all night in the office comforting the customers. We did not know what to tell them. Those who did not understand were furious. Those who understood our position, sympathized with us and we tried to find some kind of work around. But the situation was very clear to everyone in the office. There is no Cloud Telephony industry without Telephony and we have to get them to connect us back and get it back quickly.
We fought against this arbitrary decision. First we spoke with the telecom operators and convinced them to give us 3 day notice instead of buckling under pressure and disconnecting immediately. We fought hard and everyone except one eventually gave us this 3 day notice period. We went and met the officials and explained our position on how illegality of call-conferencing solution means that enterprise telephony industry in India is illegal. It did not work. And we had to find a way. We decided to go to the court. On 24th yesterday we went to TDSAT and immediately got a stay order against such ad-hoc and unjustifiable disconnection of services.
We have a stay order but we still continue to fight. We have 14 days to prove that what Cloud Telephony does in India is both legal and useful. We also need to have our disconnected Delhi cluster lines connected back. A small glitch in the way court proceedings went, meant that instead of “Stay and reconnect” we only got “Stay”. We intend to fix this before Monday. We need to provider some alternate solution to our customers. Many are given an alternate numbers and others are routed to other telecom operators or locations.
Somebody told me that doing in start-up in India is especially difficult. There are so many things you are fighting against. The undertone was that somehow the extra efforts here in India did not justify the results. My answer was that anything that does not kill you makes you stronger. Indian founders are Ninjas — or they have to become one. Knowlarity has gone through so many ups and downs that it made me a stronger and better human being than what I was 6 years back. It’s time to put that strength to test.
The story is still unfolding. In the meantime, if you are our customer, we can use your support.