RailTel sees exponential growth in video-conferencing during lockdown

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on June 22, 2020

Puneet Chawla, Chairman and Managing Director, RailTel Corporation of India

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RailTel, a small public sector unit of the Indian Railways that focusses on all things digital, saw its business grow exponentially in the two months of the national lockdown. Its video conferencing meetings soared by 25 times and demand for broadband more than doubled.

The video conferencing duration measured in man-minutes soared 25 times in the two months following the lockdown, against the preceding two months — to 86 lakh man-minutes from 3.34 lakh man-minutes. “Man-minutes are calculated by the number of people attending the video conferencing multiplied by the duration of the meeting (in minutes). Effectively, two people attending a video conferencing for 60 minutes is 120 man-minutes,” RailTel Corporation of India’s Chairman and Managing Director Puneet Chawla explained.

Home broadband demand

Chawla added that the home broadband requirement is seeing a surge due to a steep rise in work-from-home and online schooling. “The growth of bandwidth consumption for our retail broadband brand RailWire during the lockdown has been 2.25 times pre-lockdown. We feel that the need to be virtually connected is high due to the mandate of social distancing,” he said.

He added that there is a sudden increase in demand for commercial bandwidth and RailTel had to procure additional bandwidth. In the two months after the lockdown, as against the two months prior to that, the number of e-files created doubled on the National Informatics Centre’s (NIC) e-office platform to 2.7 lakh from 1.3 lakh. The number of e-office users also reached 100,000.

RailTel has also embarked on some new projects like creating a video-consulting app for the Delhi-based Indian Railways’ hospital and dispensaries. The app is being tested.

Project deferment

The mini-ratna saw its growth soar in pretty much all its business segments. That said, RailTel — whose competitors include Airtel, BSNL, Jio and Vodafone — had to defer some digital projects amid the pandemic. “The projects like laying optical fibre network and installation of CCTV had to be deferred as there were challenges in finding labour and factories were closed,” Chawla told BusinessLine.

Some of RailTel’s customers, such as State governments, sought deferred payments, but most of its customers including the Indian Railways paid the revenues on time. “We are able to sustain quite well,” said Chawla, when asked about revenues post lockdown, vis-à-vis the same period last year.

It is now trying to get empanelment for its data-centre business, which will enable the mini-ratna to bag big clients such as Coal India. “To get more government clients — who prefer to store data in IT Ministry’s empanelled data centres — RailTel has started its Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification inspection. This inspection will help RailTel get some big clients like Coal India,” Chawla told BusinessLine.

RailTel’s data centres — located in Gurugram and Hyderabad — store the data of several customers including the Indian Railways.

Published on June 22, 2020

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