Wednesday, September 29, 2010

FREE YOUR VOICE - CLOUD TELEPHONY



Internet has changed the way people do business. Internet and associated technologies have made it easy for people to even start new businesses. Right now, it is very easy for anyone to start a business. All it needs is an Idea.

For an Internet business to startup, he can get a domain name for Rs.500($10) per year and around 50GB hosting with database for Rs.3000 ($60) and he is set(sometimes, he can get these for an even lesser amount).

So with just a base capital of around Rs.1000/2000 ($50) per month any person can publish his idea to the world.

This ease of setup and availability of developer resources has made entrepreneurs look towards Internet solutions to start their businesses and publish their ideas. And we have seen the outcome of that. Innovative businesses are coming up every day and changing our lifestyles.

Let us say a killer idea for a business has just come to you.

What is the first task you do?
You check to see if the domain name for your idea is still up for grabs or not.
You do not think of applying for a business phone number.

Though telephones have been in existence for a far longer time than computers, they are no longer our preferred mode of communication and they are no longer the preferred channel for businesses to reach their customers. This is in spite of the fact that there are more telephone users in any country than computer users (in fact, for every one person who has an Internet connection in India, there are 10 persons who have a telephone connection).And also, computers are accessible to only literate people and has led to what many people refer to as the "Digital Divide".

Why is that so? The reasons are plenty, as I have mentioned in my previous posts, but mainly they are:
1. Closed nature of the telephony applications controlled by a few big telecom companies.
2. New technology stacks to be learnt by developers.
3. Large setup costs and costly telephony hardware.
4. Technology gap. Voice based technologies are not up to the mark, especially speech recognition.

Cloud telephony platforms could change this paradigm.

If only you could get telephony functions for Rs.500 per month to publish your idea over the phone.
If only you need not learn any new technologies to build telephony applications.
If only building a telecom application was as easy as building a web page.
If only you need not know about ports, PRI cards and other telephony terminology.

Then maybe we can see a spurt of innovation in telephony applications.
Then maybe entrepreneurs will start to think of creating telephony startups.
Then maybe we can see mashups which make the web data available to telephone users.
And then maybe we can free our voice.

Cloud telephony platforms have the potential to be this disruptive force which can fuel innovation. All cloud telephony platforms have the following things in common:

1. They provide a web based API using which users can call telephony applications like dial, get dtmf, record audio, play audio etc.
2. They take care of hardware setup and phone number provisioning so that you can worry only about your application.
3. Most of them have a pay for what you use policy so the initial setup costs are negligent.

With the advent of KooKoo these kinds of services are available in India also.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, other popular cloud telephony services include Tropo, Twilio and Cloudvox.

Heres to hoping the next time an entrepreneur has an idea for a startup, his first task will be to check if a catchy phone number is still available or not :)