Zoom’s COVID Journey & Its Vision to Let Users Shake Hands One Day

Zoom saw a 67-time growth in Indian users signing up for a free account right after the lockdown was announced.

3 min read

Editor: Abhishek Sharma


Zoom has been among the undisputed winners during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Zoom becomes a household name across the country and globally, Abe Smith, the company’s head of international spoke to The Quint about responding to the lockdown, future of video, plans for India, the competition Zoom is up against and taking a break from too much video.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On Preparing for the Pandemic

“When the pandemic hit and we saw the first signs of that in early 2020, our first real focus was to help and serve. We're humbled by the fact that people needed to connect and communicate in all areas. And, you're right, the usage was dramatic,” Smith said.

“So, we were averaging about 10 million participants per day in January 2020,  so entering the new year. Which is a high volume, very high volume.”


Zoom’s Growth as Lockdowns Came Into Force

“By March 2020, three months later, That number had gone to 200 million meeting participants per day. Thirty days later by April 2020 it was over 300 million meeting participants per day,” Smith told The Quint.

“To give you a perspective, in India, we saw 67 times the growth in people signing up for free accounts and four times the amount of paid acquisitions.”

“People using their credit cards to buy a subscription for purposes of connecting. So, fundamentally, I think everybody found the need to connect,” he added.

The Future of Video

“I think there are a couple of trends that will continue to evolve in video. First of all, video is the new voice. So, I think what the pandemic has shown us is that people want to connect like this,” Smith told The Quint.

“And, if you look at generation Z or the millennials generally. Kids like my daughter or my younger son, the truth is that generation is raised on a video-first approach. And whether that's through consumer applications like FaceTime or Facebook Messenger or Snapchat or otherwise, these tools are very commonly used and they will start to use all their conversations video-first.”

A video inspired call rather than an audio only call – that’s a trend that I think will persist.
Abe Smith, Zoom’s Head of International

Zoom’s Journey in India

“You hit on a key point. The fact that we have a data centre in Mumbai and Hyderabad and we've been partnering at an infrastructure level with Tata for some time suggests we're ready to enter and grow in India,” said Smith.

“And that foundation in Mumbai became the genesis of how we could direct the organisation. We felt India was the right place where we could scale and scale well.”

“Sameer Raj is our country manager, he is a long-time veteran of unified communications. The commitment of things like the Bangalore technology centre suggested this is also the right place for us to develop engineering resources, Dev Ops, a really core centre to help diversify our technical strength,” Smith added.

Is There Something Like Too Much Video Conferencing?

“I do think you've got to pace. Like anything else, human interaction is still important. Video is never meant to be the supplant to eradicate humans from connecting with one another. So, everything in life is pace and moderation,” Smith said.

“Eric’s(Yuan) Ultimate vision, the company’s ultimate vision is to make the video experience as real as face to face one day. And as technology continues to evolve that could mean that I could pass my hand through and I could shake your hand.”

Or, one day the screen might vibrate so you might feel more sensors around vibrations or smell. So, you know, those things continue to progress and those will take time. That's more advancements to come.

I just think, you know, if you sit twenty hours a day with a headset on looking at your screen, I think studies probably show that that's not the best for anybody. Whether that's a video game or playing or, you know, frankly typing emails on your computer.

Any of those could cause eye fatigue or otherwise so you’ve got to take care of your health too.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Zoom   Zoom Abe Smith   Abe Smith Interview 

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