Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Video conference communication in Russia: from individual services to office superapps

After the withdrawal of video conferencing tools of Western IT vendors from the Russian market, an unclosed niche was formed, which domestic companies quickly began to master. Nevertheless, they are not yet able to provide integrated user experience. But there is movement in this direction.

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The market of Russian video conferencing facilities (VCF) for 2022 is estimated at about 3.03 billion rubles ($33.5 million) – 17% more than the year before. At the same time, the traffic of foreign VCF platforms is gradually falling – last year it decreased by 19%, while Russian – increased by 41%. According to various estimates, the share of domestic solutions in the market increased from 40% to 86%.

The developers of video conferencing platforms believe that the Russian VCF market will grow one and a half to two times by the end of 2024 in comparison with 2022. MTS predicts that it will reach the level of 4 billion rubles. This means that it will develop faster than the global one, whose indicators on average are 12-13% per year.

The customer profile has also changed. If a year or two ago about 80% of customers of Russian VCF systems were from the public sector or companies with state participation, last year about half were representatives of large business, production and industry – and the trend continues.

Gradually, large retail and financial organizations are showing interest in domestic products, the next will be medium-sized businesses. We will tell you how Russian VCF platforms are developing in such conditions.

Chaos in the VCF market

The global market for VCF platforms and services received a powerful impetus for development in 2020, when, due to the global pandemic, business began to switch massively to virtual communications.

In Russia, as in other countries, they began to actively use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meets – mature technologies with convenient pricing, which generally suit everyone. At that time, only the public sector had a need for high-quality Russian technologies – but they coped with the solutions already on the market.

The situation changed in March 2022, when world IT suppliers, including in the field of VCF, announced their departure from Russia. Due to the restrictions imposed by vendors, the business could not use the functionality necessary for full-fledged work.

For example, due to the inability to pay for Zoom, it was possible to hold conferences for no more than 40 minutes in time.

A large unoccupied niche has formed on the market, which Russian suppliers have begun to master – even those that historically have not been associated with communication tools. For example, developers of webinar organization tools began to enter the VCF sphere – although the architecture of their solutions, of course, was based on other technologies and with other tasks. So, not without excesses, but the process of import substitution of the VCF began extremely quickly in the country.

Over the past year and a half, the chaos has subsided, and the market has taken shape. Established niche solutions have been adapted for video conferencing tasks, and technologies that were urgently created from scratch turned out to be acceptable in functionality – albeit raw.

Moreover, all these products are being finalized extremely quickly. Therefore, domestic means of communication began to be used not only by state organizations, but also by large companies, which are important for the uninterrupted operation of such services.

However, one niche remained that Russian suppliers could not completely close – it’s integrated solutions.

Do not forget that most Western VCF platforms are not just means of communication, but full-fledged communication ecosystems. They have instant messengers, data stores, task trackers, they are configured for integration with internal knowledge bases. That is, employees can work almost without switching between applications and corporate systems.

There are no such products in Russia yet. There are players who perfectly make corporate messengers, there are those who can organize video communication for a hundred people. But no one is yet able to provide integrated user experience in full.

What’s next?

The Russian VCF market will continue to grow – this is a fact. But it should be borne in mind that among most users, especially small and medium-sized businesses, there is great inertia. They prefer familiar services.

This is confirmed by statistics: according to a survey by TelecomDaily, Zoom remains the leader in the VCF market – almost 72% of respondents prefer this particular platform (although its share has decreased by 5% over the year). The second most popular is Skype with 45% (minus 7% per year). If this continues, the pace of development of domestic producers may decrease.

The catch is that customer requirements have remained at the level of advanced solutions from global IT manufacturers. And behind them are years of development and a staff of thousands of experienced programmers – what is so lacking now for domestic developers.

Even the leaders of the Russian market, who launch new functionality more than once a month, are not yet able to catch up with international giants.

Domestic solutions can be called truly mature when they cover more tasks in the field of communications. This is an obvious trend in the market – merging advanced VCF solutions with other corporate tools.

Communication means should be transformed into superapps – complex platforms for all types of corporate interaction. The global market has already followed this path; for Russian suppliers – it’s your turn now.

But this is a huge investment. International IT manufacturers have been moving towards such functionality for years. Microsoft first had simple Office, then integrated charts in PowerPoint, then Outlook, buying and developing Messenger. It’s a long road. Moreover, in Russia it may not pay off – in comparison with the global market, ours is quite narrow. The scale of commercialization of solutions is completely different.

Therefore, it is too early to talk about the quick start of Russian communication superapps. Gradually, more and more niche solutions will appear on the market, which will begin to be integrated into the infrastructure of technology companies like Yandex, VK, MTS – mainly by takeover. Moreover, they do not have to acquire entire companies – sometimes a specific tool will be enough, for example, for file sharing.

The VKS market is extremely dynamic: if the user is uncomfortable, if charging or functionality does not suit him, he can change the platform quickly and painlessly. Therefore, providers of such solutions are as adaptive as possible. This became noticeable after the departure of global IT vendors from the country – domestic companies quickly took their place and finalized the products.

However, they are still far from fully replacing solutions from international manufacturers. To do this, you need to create an integrated user experience – and this is a matter of at least five years.

By Arseniy Kondratyev, Senior Manager of Technology Consulting Practice at Axenix

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