MetriSight Ep.51 - Inside Vonage's CPaaS Mission

December 07, 2023 00:15:10
MetriSight Ep.51 - Inside Vonage's CPaaS Mission
Metrigy MetriSight
MetriSight Ep.51 - Inside Vonage's CPaaS Mission

Dec 07 2023 | 00:15:10

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Show Notes

Vikram Khandpur joined Vonage in April 2023 as SVP of CPaaS Products and Developer Experience. He's charged with driving the strategic direction for the company's communications API portfolio. Here's where he's headed.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:22] Speaker A: And thanks for tuning into this episode of Metrosite. I'm Beth Schultz, Vice President of Research and principal Analyst at Metroge. With me today is Vikram Kanpur, who is Senior Vice president of CPAS Products and Developer Experience at Vonage. Vikram joined Vonage earlier this year to lead the strategic direction, product development and gotune market processes for Vonage's portfolio of communications APIs. He also has oversight of the massive developer network associated with Vonage CPAs, as well as the product management team. Given the increasing importance of CPAs for CX, and the growing carrier and operator interest, and how they can capitalize on CPAs for their customers, I'm looking forward to sharing Vikram's thoughts on the role for Vonage moving forward as a longtime player and industry leader, but now under Ericsson's ownership. Welcome, Vikram. [00:01:19] Speaker B: It's great to be here. Thank you for having me on your show. [00:01:22] Speaker A: Absolutely. So listen, let's start with sort of your background. You have a very varied product management background from Skype Teams, including Internet of Things wearables. So what initially drew you to the idea of CPAs and composable communications communications APIs and what's keeping you interested? [00:01:44] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a great know. Actually, I started my career in the telecom space. Interestingly, even though I spent more than half my career at Microsoft in software, I started out with Nokia very early days and I was exposed to the power of communication and messaging and how people were able to connect over SMS and then MMS. So I was in the very beginning of the mobile revolution that happened in the early two thousand s. I saw. [00:02:12] Speaker C: That there at Microsoft, I worked on. [00:02:15] Speaker B: A variety of products, as you noted, right, Windows IoT wearables. But then the last four years, I came back into communication again. I worked on Skype and Microsoft Teams and it was around 2018 when I was working on Skype. We actually made a proposal to Satya that people use the application, but also people are looking for the Lego blocks to build their own application. [00:02:38] Speaker C: Like a Skype, right? [00:02:40] Speaker B: And Skype platform was robust enough where we could actually break it down into a messaging API or a voice API or a video API and give it to other developers to create other applications like Skype and Teams. [00:02:53] Speaker C: So that's where it sort we at. [00:02:56] Speaker B: Least I started getting really passionate about compostable APIs and really breaking down communication as a set of Lego blocks. At that time, Microsoft was all focused on Teams and they wanted to double down. So the project didn't take off. But eventually that became Azure Communication Services. Three years later, I was going to ask, yes. So that proposal was picked up a couple of years later after Teams had. [00:03:21] Speaker C: Launched, and then somebody finally decided to. [00:03:25] Speaker B: Invest resources and ACS came about. [00:03:28] Speaker C: Okay. [00:03:29] Speaker B: I was an impatient man back then, and I wanted to get going right away. So I left Microsoft into next year in 2019 to go join Cinch, where Cinch had reached out to me. They were already a vendor with Microsoft. They knew that we were a big customer and they were looking somebody from the West coast to come and help the Swedish company. Cinch is a company based out of. [00:03:51] Speaker C: Sweden, as you can know. [00:03:53] Speaker B: And back then, Cinch was a much smaller company. Today it's almost three or four times the size. Since I joined, it was a much smaller company, and they were looking for a chief product officer to come and help them sort of grow beyond SMS seller into a full CPAs player. And it sort of really resonated with my own proposal at Microsoft to go do that. [00:04:17] Speaker C: And I'm like, great. [00:04:18] Speaker B: I finally have somebody who wants to do this. I have a passion for it. I can see a market for it, they can see a market for it. So let's join hands and create something beautiful. [00:04:29] Speaker A: Okay? [00:04:30] Speaker B: That was my journey into sort of official CPAs space, starting with Cinch. [00:04:35] Speaker A: Okay. And then you joined Vonage, and when you joined, you had written a LinkedIn post, and in that post, you mentioned that vonage's vision of turning one way notifications into intelligent two way conversations across all forms of communication. So I'm curious at this point, how is this vision materialized in products today? And I understand we're kind of early days yet, and then how is it influencing your strategy for product development? [00:05:05] Speaker C: That's a great question. [00:05:07] Speaker B: I mean, if you think about communication is a basic human need, right? We are talking here. We are conversing. When we are talking to a brand, we are conversing. Either we are looking for a deal or we are complaining about a problem, or we want to buy something. Right? Everything is a conversation before a transaction can happen. So the more we can facilitate rich conversations, higher the chance a real transaction will happen today. When you look at the CPAs market, companies like Cinch, Twilio One Inch, they send out billions of messages one way. A marketeer telling you, like, hey, I got a Black Friday sale or a Thanksgiving sale coming up. What do you do with that? You want to know where it is? How can I take advantage of it? What are your hours? [00:05:48] Speaker C: Right? [00:05:49] Speaker B: Where can I shop? How can I get going now? So if you think about it as humans we value conversations. The more conversations we can have, higher the chance a real transaction can take place on a digital medium. So as one age, we want to provide tools, we want to provide APIs where brands can connect with their customers over a two way medium. It could be an API. So we have a messages API, we have WhatsApp API, or we can connect over our application. We offer a contact center. We also offer our conversational commerce application, which is jumper through and depending what type of customer it is, if it is a non tech customer, like a marketeer trying to communicate with its marketing audience, they could use Jumper to send out campaigns. People could respond back through jumper inbox, and then marketeers can have one on one conversations in contact center. Again, you know, calls are coming in, messages are coming in. We want to make it very easy for agents to have these conversations. [00:06:52] Speaker C: If somebody. [00:06:52] Speaker B: Now, if I talk about API, if somebody wants, like, let's say, Uber, Uber wants to build a WhatsApp engagement using our WhatsApp API. They could do that, and then we facilitate the flow of conversation, the persistence of the conversations, and we also allow for them to add chatbots. So when a real agent is not there, a chatbot could take over and help sort of process that conversation on behalf of. So we are seeing that across our portfolio, where we are enabling these conversations to happen over voice, WhatsApp, and even messages, and even video. So all forms of communication and across the entire surface of a portfolio. [00:07:37] Speaker A: Okay, great. Now let's jump to AI, because, well, these days, you got to talk about AI, right? And Vonage brings together AI with CPAs in AI studio. So how much of a differentiator is AI studio for Vonage today, do you think? [00:07:55] Speaker B: I think it's a big differentiator, because AI studio enables people to get going very quickly without a lot of investment in writing code and connect our Lego blocks. So if they want to create a workflow, right, like on day one, send an email. If there is no response, then send an SMS. If there's no response, send a voice call. So if they want to create a workflow, they can do that in AI studio, right? So it allows for connecting channels, like messages, voice, video. It allows for connecting the channels to customers data, and it also allows for connecting to our chatbots, which is our AI powered chatbots, right? So it really helps you construct these conversations in a very rapid way, because conversation includes, what? A channel and a data, right. And then the AI intelligence behind it that's being used in a chatbot. If you were to introduce a chatbot, then AI studio also allows for that. So we think AI studio will remain a very important tool in our toolkit, where customers can really get going very rapidly. We have easy to use templates, we have predefined templates that they can use for creating specific conversations for their use cases. [00:09:12] Speaker A: Are you starting to see traction with it and CX leaders around AI? And if so, give any? [00:09:19] Speaker B: I mean, you know, we bought this company over AI almost four years ago, and AI studio came as part of that. We have already sold hundreds of chatbots and IVRs with our contact center customers. It's basically a bundle that we upsell as part of our contact center, and we have seen hundreds of deployments with our chatbots, either in the form of IVRs or in the form of text based agents. Right. [00:09:46] Speaker C: Where a message comes in and a. [00:09:47] Speaker B: Virtual agent takes over. What we are seeing now is there is a demand for Generative AI. As you know, AI has been around for several years. What happened late last year was OpenAI coming out with Chat GPT-3 which was a really powerful chat bot that understands human input, can also then process and summarize and reason on your behalf and then give you very human like output. So we like that because it makes conversations much more human. And now we are in the process of upgrading our chatbots to use generative AI. [00:10:22] Speaker A: Okay, that's something to watch for. Certainly a lot of interest in that. [00:10:27] Speaker C: Okay. [00:10:27] Speaker A: Now, in your role, you have oversight of developers working on the Vonage API platform. So tell us, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see there, particularly in context of Ericsson as your parent company? [00:10:42] Speaker B: Yeah, so vonage is a standalone company. Our mission has not changed. It's been expanded for sure, but our mission has not changed. [00:10:50] Speaker C: Right. [00:10:51] Speaker B: What we have got is funding and access to even more engineers from Ericsson. So when I need AI models, I can tap into Ericsson's AI teams and ask them to build us these models very rapidly, instead of hiring another 50 people. So we've been given access to Ericsson's R and D teams. [00:11:08] Speaker C: We've been given funding. [00:11:09] Speaker B: If we were in a public market right now, it would be a tough market to be in. Right. You can imagine everyone else has slowed down while we are hiring hundreds of people. [00:11:19] Speaker C: So I think overall, it's a good. [00:11:22] Speaker B: Combination and marriage with Ericsson. And we really like their vision of opening network as an API now. [00:11:29] Speaker C: Right. [00:11:29] Speaker B: If you think about until so far, two APIs have driven a multi billion dollar industry in CPAs that's been SMS and voice. But imagine if things like location, things like quality of service, things like device status or device identity. If these APIs, if these capabilities can be opened up as APIs, sky is the limit. CPAS is only going to grow exponentially as a result. And I think we can play a big role with the help of Ericsson, to actually unlock that opportunity, both for Ericsson vonage, but also for operators. Because here, operators can also monetize these new APIs. [00:12:08] Speaker A: Now, if I'm not mistaken, Deutsche Telecom made an announcement around this very thing, right? [00:12:16] Speaker C: That's correct, yes. Yeah, you're correct. [00:12:18] Speaker B: So, a couple of months ago, we announced our first partnership with a telco operator, in this case, Deutsche Telecom, where we have worked with them to be a reseller of our CPAs. But in addition to that, we gave them a platform so they can monetize these APIs. It's called the Magenta API. It's a white label platform that we built for them. Underlying that platform is the Vonage platform, but they call it the Magenta API. And then we also built some bespoke 5G APIs for them. These are bespoke Camara APIs that Deutsche Telecom wanted to come out with. So we help them build out those capabilities. And those are like location, around 5G video. [00:13:06] Speaker A: So can we expect to see more of that sort of thing? Ericsson leveraging the Vonage CPAs to help build out its 5G API platform, for example. [00:13:17] Speaker C: Absolutely. [00:13:18] Speaker B: So we are in talks with several other major operators that have seen this partnership, that have been inspired by this partnership, and they are keen to do the same thing in their own respective regions. So we are working with similar operators in the US, in Europe, and also in Asia. [00:13:34] Speaker C: Okay, great. [00:13:35] Speaker A: So, Vikram, I think that's a great place to leave off. Unless you have any other last thoughts. [00:13:40] Speaker C: To share with us, I would know. [00:13:43] Speaker B: This CPAC is evolving very rapidly. It's not just SMS or voice anymore. It's going to be chatbots, it's going to be marketplace, it's going to be sort of middleware on top that allows developers to be able to glue together CPAs APIs with cloud APIs. There is a lot of innovation happening, there's a lot of demand. Goes back to my first point. I think this market is massive for communication APIs. There are so many possibilities. What will happen is things will become faster, smarter and better for developers, and we'll be playing a big role in. [00:14:19] Speaker C: Making that happen for them. [00:14:23] Speaker A: It's going to get complex, I think, in a good way. Right like you said, it's just not about SMS. And voice channels mean, I won't say complex. [00:14:33] Speaker B: I think there's going to be options and we will always be trying to simplify that. [00:14:39] Speaker C: Fair enough. Fair enough. All right. [00:14:41] Speaker A: Well, Vikram, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your insights with us today. We really appreciate it. And listeners, we want to thank you for tuning in. You can watch this channel for our next episode and check out all of our latest content on our website at ww metrogy.com. [00:14:59] Speaker C: Till next time. [00:15:00] Speaker A: Take care, everybody.

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