Remote working likely to bring a cultural shift: Lark’s Vinay Bhartia

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Remote working technology and collaboration platforms are the new norms for organisations and businesses operating amid the on-going pandemic crisis globally. However, these new norms also have a different dimension, when it comes to India.

India’s heterogeneous business and technology landscape although offer ample opportunities for tech companies but it also throws many challenges around IT infrastructure, cybersecurity, internet bandwidth, unsecured mobile, computer devices and apps.

Besides, organisations in many industries are struggling to transform their IT and business infrastructure to suit the needs of remote working and collaboration in this unprecedented situation.

Despite this challenging scenario, organisations and businesses across industries have managed to keep their operations and functions running with remote working and collaboration platforms. Tech companies in the remote working and collaboration space are witnessing a huge surge for their products and solutions.

Founded in 2016, Lark is a Singapore based next-generation tech company in the communication and collaboration space. It offers a single office suite cum work collaboration platform, addressing the core organisational needs of messaging, video conferencing, schedule management, online collaborative documents, cloud storage – in one application.

In this interview, Vinay Bhartia, Lark’s India Head talks to about the company’s business and strategy in India amid the on-going coronavirus crisis and lockdowns scenario, shares distinctive features of Lark’s platform against the competition as well as its security aspect and discusses how the adoption of remote working and collaboration platforms is making a cultural shift across industries and much more.

Edited excerpts…

Q1. Tech companies offering remote working and collaboration platforms are witnessing huge demands due to the Covid-19 crisis and the prolonged lockdowns in India. How has Lark leveraged this scenario in India this year so far?
Vinay Bhartia: During these unfavourable conditions, everyone across the world is looking to stay safe and yet be connected. This has, undoubtedly, led to an increase in the awareness and adoption of remote collaboration platforms. Lark is one such unique collaborative and communication platform that offers services to businesses who need a robust platform that can provide a full office automation solution for business continuity, work productivity and help them transit smoothly to remote working lifestyle.

We are committed to taking all the necessary steps to ensure our customers, partners and stakeholders continue to receive the best of our services. To cite an example, recently, we announced Lark in India is free for all individuals, institutions and organizations to bridge the gap as a robust, easy-to-use collaborative tool that helps people stay connected.

For example, Lark is supporting an ed-tech company called Stones2Milestones (S2M). It is empowering students to become proficient English speakers in India. Lark is providing advance solutions to facilitate communication between its teams of facilitators and educators across India.

I would like to highlight another example where Lark is supporting an Indian education company called MPTA. It is a dedicated provider of On Job Training (OJT) to thousands of young Indians from rural populations. With Lark’s scalability and ease-of-use, it has allowed their team to be agile, offer better opportunities to youths and scale programs across India. We are building a culture of effective communication.

Q2. What is Lark’s strategy to grow its business as well as differentiate its products from the competitors in the Indian market? Is Lark relying on a channel business model or is going directly into the market?
Vinay Bhartia: Lark is an all-in-one platform that enables teams to work together, rapidly manage workflow and help the business to operate efficiently. It brings a multitude of essential work tools including Messenger, Documents, Presentations, Cloud Storage, Calendar, and Video Conferencing and more in a single interconnected interface.

The platform helps individuals and organizations to manage their day-to-day tasks remotely without wasting time juggling between different applications which makes Lark a very powerful and effective office automation tool.

We, at Lark, with our robust outreach programs and multiple channel partners, are building a loyal customer base. With the help of these programs, we are partnering with multiple channel partners – distributors, ISVs and resellers to strengthen our footprint in the country. Our approach is to work with more distributors to ensure that all potential customers in need of a professional collaboration suite are aware of Lark and its services.

As of now, we are targeting all markets where there is a demand for communication & collaborative software. Also, we are focused on improving our product and growing our user base in high-potential markets in the Asia Pacific. We are also creating awareness by educating our potential customers through various webinars/workshops and engagement with influencers.

Q3. Which are the key features of Lark’s online communication and collaborative platform? How Lark’s platform has addressed the security issue as it still is a major concern for users today?
Vinay Bhartia: Lark is an all-in-one online collaboration platform for all needs, featuring next-generation tools that enable teams to work together. The key product features are:

  • Seamless connectivity: On Lark, the various components of the suite (Messenger, Docs, Calendar, Video Conferencing, Workplace) are not just brought together, but are deeply integrated. This allows Lark to have unique features such as: Insert a group chat in a Doc, check team members’ schedules right from a chat, launch a video call right from a calendar event. Lark allows collaboration on documents and sheets in real-time which includes a true all in one doc that has tables, images, videos and project management tools
  • Mobile-Friendly: The work stored and created on Lark gets synced in real-time across all devices. Mobile-friendliness gives users the freedom to be working at any place and any time.
  • Technological Prowess: Lark has in-built features like AI-powered auto-translation, multi-time zone views in Calendar, and Virtual Office, which helps remote and multinational teams to work together as seamlessly as in person
  • Affordability: Lark is the only product in the market that offers an enterprise-grade collaboration suite for free. Lark’s free version comes with unlimited video calls (complete with advanced screen sharing and recording functions), 200GB of cloud storage, online collaborative docs and sheets, a smart calendar, a powerful messenger, unlimited third-party app integrations, and customizable attendance/approval workflows
  • Safe and Secure: Customers need to be aware of the platform’s safety and security features it offers. For platforms to ensure better security and additional privacy, it’s fundamental to deploy end-to-end encryption as well.

At Lark, we believe data security and privacy of our customers as our top priority. Lark has passed most of the trusted information security standards in the world, including ISO 27701, ISO 27018, ISO 27001, SOC 2 and SOC 3 certifications. We are now certified to ISO 27701, the international standard for Privacy Information Management.

Q4. While the COVID- 19 crisis along the lockdowns has opened up a new market for remote working and collaboration solutions today, but in your view, are there any challenges for Lark in the serving the Indian market in this current scenario?
Vinay Bhartia: The sole purpose of Lark is to enable people and teams to work together to achieve their goals through consistent connectivity. It is an open platform that integrates with any application or system thus making it flexible for multiple uses. Lark is built to support requirements for businesses of all sizes, and it’s an open platform which supports multiple application integration into it.

Therefore, we are well-equipped to serve our clients and with dedicated support teams, we have not faced any challenges so far. However, there are some of the ecosystem requirements that need to be addressed timely and which can lead to challenges that businesses are facing today. Some of these include:

  1. Lack of infrastructure – Businesses are forced to work-from-home today but how many of us don’t have the infrastructure and connectivity at home. In offices, employees are provided with the hardware as well as the connectivity but now organizations are struggling to maintain business continuity because employees don’t have these privileges at their homes.
  2. Lack of training and familiarity with technology – We are a very high touch point country where we do a lot of training in person, so when you move to a remote working environment, how does one train or teach the team to adapt to new technologies, remotely, because now they have to work in a new environment. Lark has a dedicated customer success team who work very closely with our customers for training, demos and queries.
  3. There are common challenges like lack of awareness of tools which can be used to continue the business or collaborate.
  4. Managing data securely is one of the important concerns that individuals and organizations have when they go and work online.

So far, we have been consistent in providing our full-scale services and have not encountered any challenges in terms of offerings and support. We strive to fulfil every demand of our customers, ensure to meet all the safety and security norms, and respect the privacy of our customers, partners and stakeholders. With the increase in downloads and demands for customized account settings, we believe we are progressing in the right direction as we continue to improve our capabilities in the process.

Q5. What type of demands Lark has seen in India during the early part of this year and going ahead what steps the company is taking to meet new demands?
Vinay Bhartia: Lark started its operations in India in August 2019 and within a year, we have positioned ourselves as an empowering tool for organizations to work better, faster and more effectively. We work with clients across the spectrum including Retail, Manufacturing, Education, Social Services, FMCG, Corporate and Financial Services.

To encourage organizations to adopt and remote working tools, we have, as said earlier, made all our services free of cost for all individuals and organizations to provide an affordable, easy-to-use platform and to ensure business continuity. We will continue providing the best services to our customers as even in a post-pandemic world, the demand for remote connectivity tools will continue to increase.

Q6. While experts say that there won’t be any major change to the current situation due to the pandemic crisis in India, what’s your take on the overall market of online communication and collaborative platforms in India?
Vinay Bhartia: The present-day scenario has made work-from-home a favourable way to run businesses, which has increased the demand for collaborative platforms in India. Remote working technologies are paving a path to bring a potential cultural shift across industries and verticals which can reap maximum benefits and help business models gain maximum output.

Lark is prepared to meet that demand through our robust outreach plan. We will increase our network to work with more distributors to ensure Lark suite reaches all professionals who require a single-platform solution for all their office needs.

As the times are changing, organizations and individuals will be better equipped to respond to remote working requirements. With a rise in virtual office needs, having a stable internet connection, hardware and software support, advanced technology infrastructure and enhanced tech features, it will also lead to an increase in the market share for online collaboration and communication platforms.

(Image source – Lark)

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