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Inside the ‘new normal’ love affair with Zoom: Q&A with Zoom’s Derek Pando

Zoom says it is rapidly scaling up hiring efforts in Southeast Asia across the full spectrum of its business.

Derek Pando - Zoom

In the annus horriblis of 2020, Zoom Video Communications has become the king of the quarantine economy, and joined the ranks of companies such as Google and Photoshop whose brand names have become verbs. The teleconferencing service saw a massive influx of users and customers, peaking at over 300 million daily meeting participants in April. For the first quarter, the company reported year-on-year revenue growth of 169%.

However, as Zoom grew to become synonymous with videoconferencing, so did the term ‘Zoom fatigue’ which refers to the exhaustion and brain strain one may experience as a result of video meetings. In order to alleviate the problem, experts advised to limit calls to the necessary ones. At the same time, tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and Facebook have put forward own videoconferencing solutions and challenge Zoom’s market share.

So is the love affair with Zoom just a pandemic fling or a relationship built to last?

There is still momentum. The company announced a new data center in Singapore to connect its Southeast Asian users, introduced Zoom-branded hardware in America, and launched a Virtual Paddock Club with Formula One in Europe.

KrASIA spoke with Derek Pando, head of international and partner marketing, to find out more about their plans for Singapore, Southeast Asia, and beyond.

KrASIA (Kr): Congratulations on the new data center in Singapore! Could you share how it ties in with Zoom’s plans for the Southeast Asia region? 

Derek Pando (DP): We launched the data center in Singapore to improve our services, and demonstrate our commitment to the country and the region surrounding it. Singapore is a gateway to the wider Southeast Asian region, and as it rapidly grows and goes digital, we are keen to enable businesses and consumers in becoming more tech-savvy.

Since January 2020, we’ve experienced a whopping 65-fold increase in free users in Singapore and tripled the number of paying customers. As we look to get closer to our users and customers in Singapore, and indeed the wider Southeast Asian region, we are rapidly scaling our hiring efforts locally across the full spectrum of our business.

Though we aren’t able to give an exact figure at this time, our current hiring priorities include positions such as enterprise, financial services, public sector, major accounts, SMB, and Zoom phone sales, as well as business development, and multiple other functions and roles such as solutions engineering, customer success, engineers, tax, legal, HR, and professional services.

Kr: How had Zoom been doing in the Southeast Asia market prior to COVID-19 and launch of the Singapore data center? 

DP: We don’t have any region-specific numbers at the moment, but worldwide, we went from 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020.

The platform has seen extensive use in education, with more than 45,000 educators and staff across 400 schools and the Ministry of Education headquarters on board since March, delivering over 500 million minutes of collective usage in Singapore.

Read this: Zoom to increase its R&D dependency on India and US

Beyond this, we work with businesses across industries, assisting them with the digital transformation process and remote work, all with a single tool. One of our clients includes PropNex in Singapore. We have worked closely with them to provide training, webinars, and meetings to teach their staff how to use the Zoom platform effectively and productively.

PropNex and its sales team were able to continue selling properties through engaging and informative virtual open houses and property tours. Since the company started using Zoom. it has closed on hundreds of units with clients who have not visited the show-flat or actually seen the physical unit.

Kr: Zoom recently partnered with DTEN to produce a home communications device and announced future partnerships with Neat and Poly Studio. What is the impetus behind that and will we see such hardware launches in Asia as well?

DP: The launch of Zoom for Home was spurred by the large-scale shift to remote working due to the pandemic. A month ago, we unveiled the Zoom for Home DTEN ME, an all-in-one personal collaboration device. Zoom Meetings and Zoom Phone users can easily use the device for one-touch video meetings, crystal clear phone calls, seamless content sharing, interactive whiteboarding, and co-annotation. The 27-inch tablet includes 3 built-in smart cameras for video, an 8-microphone array, and an ultra-responsive touch display that can also serve as a second monitor.

Currently, Zoom for Home is only available for preorder in the US but we are constantly looking to expand internationally. Just last week, Zoom announced the international expansion for Zoom Phone in 25 additional countries and territories, including Singapore and Hong Kong.

Kr: Industry giants such as Microsoft, Google, Cisco, and Facebook are mounting stiff competition in the video-conference space. How does Zoom plan to keep them at bay? 

DP: Zoom has experienced intense competition since it was established in 2011, and yet the company has become the platform of choice for millions of participants around the world. Especially now, it’s no surprise that competition is stiff as video communication becomes integral to daily life.

What sets Zoom aside is that we were built in 2011 as a SaaS, that we are a cloud-native, internet-era video communications platform, and capable of scaling services rapidly as needs arise. People tell us that the reason they use Zoom is that it’s so easy to use, reliable and just works on any device. This is true in both personal and corporate worlds where we have been selected as the video communications platform of choice—with use cases we would never have imagined at the time of conception!

Zoom has also resonated with the millennial crowd through some fun innovations such as virtual backgrounds, and our recently implemented filters, reactions, and lighting effects, which provide greater personalization for users.

Kr: The meteoric rise of Zoom is also accompanied by the oft-discussed “Zoom fatigue”. Do you think this will put a dent or even cap your growth? 

DP: While Zoom has been helping people stay connected and productive during this pandemic, the company knows that never unplugging can cause stress and affect health. We believe that people connect better on video, but feeling connected when working from home is still challenging. The casual and fun elements that bring us together in the office seem to be missing from the virtual meeting culture.

As such, in order to empower our users to feel the best in virtual meetings, express their individuality, and build moments of fun into their day with some new features that uplevel their video game, Zoom has added new features including filters, reactions, improved lighting capabilities, and enhanced noise suppression to make the Zoom meeting experience fun and engaging, which can help to relieve some of the fatigue.

It is safe to say that video conferencing apps like Zoom will continue to play a huge role in helping organisations to maintain business continuity and stay connected even as we enter the post-COVID recovery phase.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.