WhatsApp Privacy Survey

Better World User Survey on WhatsApp Privacy Policy

by | Jan 29, 2021 | Policy, Privacy

Better World User Survey on WhatsApp's new privacy policy finds that 72% are open to switching to another viable messaging platform.
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Users vent out displeasure, want government to crack whip

WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey Report

Survey and analysis by Deepak Kumar

There is a thin line that divides respect for privacy and intrusion of privacy. In the age of the digital, this line becomes wavy and fuzzy as well. For big internet companies, the user data that resides behind the line is a gold mine. The more they get of it, the richer they get.

The recent WhatsApp privacy policy changes are just about that. By gaining a right to use and share WhatsApp’s select user data with partners, Facebook aspires to gain an unsurmountable edge in the digital advertising world. It goes without saying that WhatsApp data can help reap rich ad dividends for parent company Facebook. Users are not pleased. In respose to the one-week-long Better World survey concluded recently, a majority of them (67%) want the government to step in some way, as discussed ahead in this report. Notably, these include Business WhatsApp users as well. In fact, by the time of writing this report, various leading media portals had reported that government had written to WhatsApp and asked the company to roll back the proposed privacy-policy changes.

It all started when WhatsApp started sending out notifications to its users to the effect that it had updated its privacy policy and the users could either accept the new policy or quit using WhatsApp by 8 February 2021. Meanwhile, while this report was underway, the deadline was extended by more than three months. Users now have to accept the new privacy policy by 15 May.

WhatsApp’s privacy-policy change and the aftermath

Users’ retort has indeed been quick, sharp, and massive. They poured out their disapprovals in words as well as in actions. Millions of users posted and tweeted their angst against the move and even signed up on alternative messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram. Tesla Founder Elon Musk’s two-word tweet, “Use Signal,” helped drive a switch from WhatsApp, particularly given his following of 41.5 million on Twitter.

The rush to leave WhatsApp was so high that servers of Signal were not able to take the load of new signups. At one point, Signal sent out a tweet, “Verification codes are currently delayed across several providers because so many new people are trying to join Signal right now…Hang in there.”

On 11 January 2021, Facebook’s shares declined 4.01% on a day when Nasdaq slipped just 1.55%. On 12 January, it further declined 2.24% on a day when Nasdaq rose 0.77%. On 14 January, it happened to be at the lowest in more than six months.

Better World ran a quick user survey, where 37% users said they considered the move a serious breach of their privacy, while 45% said they it was not good but they could live with it. Only around 18% said the change didn’t bother them at all. However, some of these 18% users were already using other messaging apps along with WhatsApp.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph1

What’s the big deal about privacy in the age of social media?

In the age of social media, many of us have become comfortable sharing our thoughts and views on Facebook. In fact, many people don’t mind sharing sensitive personal information such as location and travel plans not just with friends but also with public at large.

However, when it comes to WhatsApp, the behavior often changes. Many of the users’ chats are peer-to-peer in nature and may not be meant for public viewing or consumption. The same would apply to the other activities they perform on WhatsApp, whether today or in future. These would include the financial and transactional activities performed on the WhatsApp platform.

In a digital living environment, if a Facebook wall may be considered comprising areas of the lobby and the living room, WhatsApp will certainly be akin to the bedroom and beyond.

No wonder, the recent changes in WhatsApp’s privacy policy have created a din that Facebook could not see coming.

In the wake of the user backlash, WhatsApp had to get into a defensive mode, sending out clarifications and explanations. However, a damage had been done by then. In a first reaction, 17% users responded to the Better World survey said they were quitting/had quit WhatsApp for good, while 45% said they would accept the change but start exploring other or additional options. Interestingly, 12% said they were already using another social messaging app. However, a good 26% said they would accept the changes and keep using WhatsApp as before.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph2

The myth that users are unaware and don’t care for privacy is broken

Often, as an extension to the assumption that transparency is the hallmark of a digital age, it is argued that privacy is hardly a thing that users care about. The user backlash against WhatsApp’s privacy assumptions easily breaks that myth. It also reminds one of the “Free Basics” event a few years ago. Users had then considered it an attempt to compromise ‘net neutrality,’ and Facebook had to roll the offer back.

The promptness of users in defending their privacy and other rights can easily be evidenced by these two examples. The events also show that users are well aware of the repercussions of any policy change or a new offering in the internet world. This is echoed by this survey results, with 80% users stating they were aware that WhatsApp was changing its privacy policy, and would be sharing a range of user data with Facebook and Instagram platforms with effect from 8 February 2021 (now 15 May 2021). The remaining 20% users said they were not aware of such changes. It is likely that some of these users were yet to receive the notifications regarding policy change when they took this survey.

Further, around 47% of users said they understood the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy for users reasonably well and another 18% said they understood it fully well. By contrast only 29% said they didn’t understand it well enough while another 6% said they didn’t understand it at all. Overall, this implies a high incidence of awareness around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

Notably, while the messages will remains end-to-end encrypted, the new policy means sharing a host of user-related information with Facebook and other third-party platforms. These include information about a user’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and receipt of a Facebook or WhatsApp account. Additionally, conversations associated with business accounts will now be shared with Facebook.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph3

The damage-control measures may be too little too late; more is needed

WhatsApp has issued a number of clarifications and explanations pertaining to the change. Those clarifications, however, have been far from satisfactory. Its parent company Facebook says the new policy changes are directed only at Business WhatsApp accounts and not the individual accounts. Also, it says only certain ad-related information will be shared with Facebook and other group companies.

However, on the actual Privacy Policy page, some of the statements may sound alarming to users. It states in one place, “We work with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services,” and adds, “When we share information with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies in this capacity, we require them to use your information on our behalf in accordance with our instructions and terms.”

What if third-party service providers don’t follow the “instructions and terms,” as had happened when in 2018 Cambridge Analytica was found to have harvested data of 87 million users from Facebook in 2016 under the guise of a survey app? In September 2018, again, hackers were able to exploit an API vulnerability to gain access to data of around 50 million users. In September 2019, data of 419 million Facebook users, including names and phone numbers, was exposed online, said Techcrunch. Three months later, data of 267 million Facebook users was reported by Comparitech as being in the wild. In March 2020, Comparitech revised the number to 309 million after finding data of another 42 million residing on another server had been compromised as well.

Given Facebook’s not-so-stellar record in protecting user data from being exploited by threat actors, it may be concerning for users to let some of their WhatsApp data be mined by Facebook and other third-party service providers.

WhatsApp, on its Privacy Policy page, further adds, “When you or others use third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them.” “Please note that when you use third-party services or other Facebook Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services and products.”

WhatsApp is not clear what this amounts to when used in conjunction with the previous two statements. Does this mean that if WhatsApp users share certain information with Facebook or other third-party services integrated with WhatsApp, the privacy policies of those services take over and WhatsApp’s privacy policy loses jurisdiction?

It will help if WhatsApp addresses such concerns and questions in its Privacy Policy document.

Pavan DuggalPavan Duggal, Indian cyber law expert

“I’m surprised that WhatsApp has done this even though India is their largest market. Effectively this means that WhatsApp, apart from sharing personal data, also discloses your transaction-associated information, which means including your credit card number, your debit card number, and your bank details. At the same time, they will share the IP address of users. It’s a very perilous situation, especially in a country that lacks a strong legal ecosystem around cyber laws and data security. Such policy changes can upsurge the probabilities of misusing users’ data by anti-social elements.  I strongly believe that people should count on more secure platforms such as Signal and Telegram for their messaging needs now.”

Rajesh Agarwal, Head IT, Aamor Inox

“People are moving to Signal and Telegram, but they are also coming back to WhatsApp. I’ve been using Signal for some time, along with WhatsApp, and found it is not as mature as WhatsApp is. There are many missing aspects in Signal, like, the personal reply feature. I found even the deletion of chat a cumbersome process in Signal. I understand the privacy concerns, but that’s there across the app ecosystem, and here WhatsApp is at least telling users what it is sharing and what’s not. Most of the users are testing Telegram and Signal while keeping WhatsApp as a primary communication tool. It will be exciting to see if this behaviour fluctuates and WhatsApp could address some of the privacy concerns that users may have”

Shashwat DCShashwat DC, Communications & Engagement (Research) at Azim Premji University

“While WhatsApp may try to dispel all fears about privacy expounding that its messaging platform is end-to-end encrypted, in reality, Facebook seems to trying to seize a lot of personal data to earn from its advertising business. To avoid such instances and provide users much-needed control over their data, India needs to implement its data protection law just like Europe’s stringent GDPR at the earliest. The world’s largest democracy, with a burgeoning IT sector, cannot risk the privacy of its citizens.”

There is a need for stakeholders to establish certain minimum privacy-policy norms

The right to privacy has been recognized as a fundamental right emerging primarily from Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 21 pertains to protection of life and personal liberty, and states, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” In August 2017, Government of India had set up a committee under the chairmanship of retired Justice BN Srikrishna to submit a report on data protection. The committee submitted its report in July 2018.

In its opening note, the report recognized that “the protection of personal data holds the key to empowerment, progress, and innovation.”

The Committee had noted that “any regime that is serious about safeguarding personal data of the individual must aspire to the common public good of both a free and fair digital economy.” “Freedom refers to enhancing the autonomy of the individuals with regard to their personal data in deciding its processing which would lead to an ease of flow of personal data,” it added.

Justice Srikrishna Committee had emphasized that processing (collection, recording, analysis, disclosure, etc.) of personal data should be done only for “clear, specific and lawful” purposes. Also, only that data which is necessary for such processing is to be collected from anyone.

Based on the recommendations of the committee, amounting to a draft Personal Data Protection bill prepared in 2018, a revised Personal Data Protection Bill was approved and placed in December 2019. A joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) chaired by Meenakashi Lekhi and comprising 20 members from Lok Sabha and 10 members from Rajya Sabha was constituted to submit its report. The JPC had conducted more than 55 sittings in 2020. Oral evidences were heard by the JPC from various state as well as non-state actors including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Jio Platforms, Paytm, and Twitter, among others. The final report of the JPC is awaited.

 Despite the fact that right to privacy has been recognized as a fundamental constitutional right, experts have been of the opinion that a law on data protection should be dynamic and not statutory in nature. This is more so because as digital economy becomes more and more prevalent and mainstream, data itself becomes dynamic in nature.

Coming to data protection, it is important to first distinguish between stationary data and moving data. While it can be reasonably guaranteed to foolproof privacy and security of stationary data, it can get very hard to ensure privacy of moving data.

The velocity of a moving data can be lightning fast in today’s digital environments. So once a private data gets into a public domain, even the slightest lapse or gap at the end of a data custodian could be disastrous. The hacks and misuses listed out earlier in this report are a testimony to this assertion.

It is therefore critical that, as we progress further into the digital economy, we ought to remove all regulatory fuzziness and laxity on the privacy front. A majority of respondents to the Better World survey subscribe to this view, with 24% noting that the government should ask WhatsApp to roll back the changes and another 43% stating that there needs to be a more holistic regulation in place. However, 33% of the users said that it would be better to let users be the best judge, though less than 22% of these users said they were fully aware of the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy as users. Of the remaining 78%, slightly more than 26% said as users they didn’t understand the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy at all or well enough, though more than 54% of these users said they reasonably understood the implications if not fully well.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph4

The choice of alternative reinforces that privacy is the key concern

Signal, which is considered to be the most privacy-oriented messaging app (see Table), was the first choice of those users who said they will look for WhatsApp alternatives. In this case, respondents had the option of selecting one or more apps, including WhatsApp. Telegram, which is considered second-most privacy-friendly app, had the second highest user preference.

While 34% of the users voted for Telegram as a WhatsApp alternative (and in some cases, as a replacement), a good 24% voted for Signal also. A fair percentage of respondents (15%) said they were sticking with WhatsApp even though they were using or considering to use apps other than WhatsApp as well.

The immediate user response, as evidenced from the survey, has been quite aggressive. While 18% of respondents said they had already quit WhatsApp as the only app, another 25% said they planned to do so within a week’s time and yet another 29% said they planned to quit in a month’s time. However, 28% said they had no plans to quit WhatsApp.

FeaturesWhatsAppTelegramSignal
Subscribers (Global)2 billion400 million20 million
Cross platformYesYesYes
Video and voice callYesYesYes
End-to-end encryption Personal messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted.Only for secret chatAll features are end-to-end encrypted
Type of softwareClosed-source privacyOpen-source privacyOpen-source privacy
Information collectionUser’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and details of a Facebook or WhatsApp account.Device data, IP addresses for moderation, phone number and the User IDOnly phone number for registration
Group chatsUp to 256 membersUp to 200,000 members1,000 members
File sharing capabilityVideos with 16MB limit in size and regular files up to 100MB2 GB100 MB
Folder managementChats can be stored through emailChats can be moved in to foldersNo such feature exists with Signal
Disappearing messages featureEnables self-destruction of a message after 7 daysEnabled through self-destruct timerEnable self-destruction after 5 seconds to 7 days once a user read the message
Data backupYes, online and offline backup on google driveYes, on Telegram’s cloudNo, stored on its own cloud platform
Group chat securityE2ENoE2E
Cross platformYesYesYes
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph5
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph6

Analyst’s Views

Better World is of the view that while the responses to this survey do reflect users’ displeasure with the new privacy policy, the actual actions taken by them will likely be different in many cases. Particularly, those users who are considering to quit WhatsApp in a month’s time, are more likely to have second thoughts and may stay put. It is also likely that some of the users who have already quit may come back after some time.

The key reason for such reconsiderations would be the huge user base that WhatsApp currently enjoys. While WhatsApp had a colossal global base of 2 billion subscribers, Telegram has a much smaller base of 400 million and Signal has a miniscule base of 20 million by comparison. Even if a few million WhatsApp users move to other platforms, it will not be fruitful if a significant percentage of their contacts also move to those very platforms. If that doesn’t happen, users could feel compelled to come back to WhatsApp for their daily messaging needs.

Notably, when considering alternative apps, 26% said they were sticking with WhatsApp. Further, when asked to provide a timeline for quitting, 28% said they had no plans to quit. It is quite possible that when it comes to actually quitting the platform, a much higher number of users will reconsider.

A consolidated view of respondents’ profiles

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph7

About the Analyst and the Survey Methodology

Deepak KumarDeepak Kumar

Deepak is an ICT industry analyst with more than 25 years of experience in researching and analyzing multiple domains. His focus areas are strategic business and marketing advisory, sales enablement, and public speaking.  He has published reports, whitepapers, case studies, and blogs in areas of cloud, mobility, social media, and analytics.

He is Founder and Chief Research Officer at BM Nxt and Better World. He has earlier worked with IDC, Reuters, Voice&Data, and Dataquest in leadership roles spanning research, advisory, and editorial functions. 

About the report

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey Report was prepared by analyzing results of a primary research and supplementing it with data and insights collected from secondary research.  

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey was conducted via an online form that was circulated among more 1,000 respondents.  A total of 565 valid responses were collected during the period 9 January to 25 January 2021.  Better World also spoke to multiple respondents for qualitative insights. The surveys were led by Jatinder Singh, Director, Research and Insights, Better World, and independent market researcher Deepti Arora.  

Acknowledgements

I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the survey respondents for taking time out and providing their inputs, without which this report would not have been completed in a timely manner. 

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

Enterprises in India leading AI adoption globally

Enterprises in India leading AI adoption globally

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated AI-focused transformations in Indian companies, according to the latest report from PwC India.

The report, AI: An Opportunity amid a Crisis, found that AI in India had greater adoption and usage than other major economies, the USA, the UK, and Japan.

It is interesting to mention that over 70% of Indian businesses, according to the PwC report, have implemented AI in one shape or another, in one or more functional regions, compared to about 62% in 2019.

The result is fairly consistent with Better World’s projections that at least 70% of companies across all sectors will likely adopt some form of AI-based technology and adopt aggressive AI- Production deployments based within the next 12 months to build a competitive edge.

AI India

PwC India survey results, which include responses from more than 950 corporate decision-makers, also show a massive increase in AI optimism since last year. Amongst Indian companies surveyed, the positivity around AI rose from 72% to 92%. Forty-five percent of Indian organizations made greater use of artificial intelligence after COVID-19, and 94% of those interviewed stated that they have implemented or plan to implement AI within their organization.

Why is AI on the rise?

Artificial intelligence is the science behind intelligent machinery. It allows computer systems to sense their surroundings, analyze, learn, and make the necessary, evidence-based decisions, just as a human brain does, at times, much faster.

The technology has been deployed rapidly in the enterprise ecosystems as it enables organizations to make informed, data-driven decisions and forecast the potential outcome of those decisions. The recent pandemic has proven to be the worst order crisis in recent times and has had a spiraling impact on consumer and corporate sentiment. (See: How artificial intelligence is transforming Indian retail sector and AI in banking now geared for a takeoff)

During the pandemic-induced nationwide lockdowns, organizations were quick to realize that they had to move away from traditional ways of working faster to stay relevant in the market. Since virtual has become the new mainstream, much data is generated and can be harnessed by technologies like artificial intelligence to improve the user experience.

From new customer acquisition to retention and enabling them to resolve grievances in an automated and quick way, AI-led solutions can automate the processes to a greater extent. Leveraging AI, enterprises can derive concrete insights and break down the data intelligently with a tremendous speed to improve their customers’ life-cycle value.

Some of the prominent examples in AI-space are Chatbots, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), driverless vehicles, digital assistants, and location finder apps (such as Google maps).

Trends 2021

In 2021, Indian businesses are expected to witness a significant transition. There will be continuous traction around remote working environments. Consumers will also remain committed to spending a large proportion of their purchases through online channels or apps.

This will compel businesses to step-forward their AI-based strategies to retain and provide an exceptional consumer experience.

Nevertheless, companies considering deploying AI applications will face challenges such as data quality, limited success models, and staff inexperience to get the most from their AI investments. (See: How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021?)

 

 

Key recent C-suite movements to watch

Key recent C-suite movements to watch

Here is a quick update on some key recent C-suite movements in the information technology and information security technology areas in India.

11 December 2020 Update

Jagdip Kumar roped in by Lohia Group as CIO

Jagdip Kumar, General Manager, IT, left Cosmo Films to join Lohia Group as CIO. In this new position, Kumar will lead the digital transformation efforts of the Lohia Group.

Lohia Group is a diversified manufacturing company that produces various products such as flexible packaging, threads, plastic components for automobiles and machines.

Kumar has over 19 years of experience and has earlier worked with AMW, VE Commercial Vehicles, and Welspun.

Puneesh Lamba joins Shahi Exports as Group CIO

Puneesh Lamba, Group CIO of CK Birla Group, has moved to Shahi Exports as their Group Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Lamba will directly report to the Board of Directors of Shahi Exports.

Shahi Export is India’s biggest apparel manufacturer and exporter and has several manufacturing units across nine Indian states and over 100,000 workforce. In the new role at Shahi Exports, Lamba will spearhead its digital transformation and cloud-based tech-innovation initiatives.

Lamba is a seasoned IT professional with a strong experience of over 27 years. He has previously associated with firms such as BILT, Punj Loyd, GE Capital in leadership roles.

Kapil Madan is Spark Minda Group’s new CISO

Spark Minda Group has appointed Kapil Madaan as its new Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). The company has a strong presence in the global automotive sector, catering to a passenger vehicle, commercial vehicle, two-wheelers, and off-road vehicle manufacturing.

Madan has previously worked with Max Healthcare as a cybersecurity leader.

Rohit Kilam moves to CMS Info Systems as CTO

Rohit Kilam has joined CMS Info Systems Ltd as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). CMS Info Systems is India’s top Cash Management and Payment Solutions company. In his new role, Rohit will lead to several process transformations and tech-innovations at CMS Info-Systems.

Rohit has earlier worked in a gamut of challenging assignments in Digital Transformations, IT Strategy, IT Performance Management, Building Digital products, Operating Models, M&A IT Integration, Outsourcing Governance, Tech Product development, and ERP implementations.

He has earlier worked with companies such as Adani Enterprises, Masan Group, and IBM in leadership roles

20 September 2020 Update

Shuvankar Pramanick, CIO, Columbia Asia Hospitals

Shuvankar Pramanick has been appointed as the new CIO of Columbia Asia Hospitals Pvt. Ltd, a group of multi-specialty hospitals that operates in cities like Bangalore, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Mysore, Kolkata, Patiala, and Pune.

Bringing 20+ years of experience, Pramanick will focus on building new tech innovations in the healthcare sector while leading the IT team of the group. Pramanick has previously held senior IT leadership positions Paras Healthcare, Fortis Healthcare, and Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.

Marc Concannon, CTO, Cubic Telecom 

Marc Concannon has joined as CTO of Software IoT (Internet of Things) and connectivity management company, Cubic Telecom. In this new role, he will focus on Cubic’s software product roadmap and growth strategy. With over 20 years of experience, Concannon has previously served as the CTO at ClavisInsight, LogEntries, and Edge by Ascential.

Kamal Hathi, CTO, DocuSign

DocuSign has roped in former Microsoft veteran Kamal Hathi as their new CTO. With over 25 years of experience leading technology and product teams at startups and global multinationals alike, Hathi will oversee the development and execution of DocuSign’s technology roadmap, and support product expansion.

San Francisco based DocuSign help organizations manage and automate electronic agreements.

 

24 July 2020 Update

Munish Mittal, Group HeadIT & CIO leaves HDFC Bank

Munish Mittal, Group Head-Information Technology & Chief Information Officer at HDFC Bank has exited HDFC Bank. He had joined the private lender in 1996 as IT Manager. During his 24 years tenure at HDFC, he spearheaded various roles, including managing the IT strategy of the bank and its associated companies, HDFC Securities, and HDB Financial Services. Mittal has not disclosed his future plans yet.

A Shiju Rawther roped in by Poonawalla Finance for CIO role

A Shiju Rawther has been appointed as the CIO of Poonawalla Finance. In his new role, Rawther will lead IT functions and strategies, and be responsible for designing the digital roadmap of the organization. He will also spearhead the company’s analytics function. Rawther has moved from IIFL Finance where he was the Executive Vice President–Technology. He has over two decades of experience in driving digital transformation, innovation, and analytics in various multinationals.

Dr. Jai Menon joins the Advisory board of IndiQus Technologies

Dr. Jai Menon, the former Group CTO of HT Media, has joined the advisory board of IndiQus Technologies, a leading telecom cloud monetization platform provider. Dr. Menon is a global technology leader with over three decades of global experience across the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. He is largely known for his various technology leadership roles at Bharti Airtel. In his new role at IndiQus, Dr. Menon will play an active strategic role in IndiQus’s product evolution and the company’s expansion plans.

Gaurav Kataria joins Sai Life Science as Chief Digital and Information Officer (CDIO)

Gaurav Kataria has joined Sai Life Sciences as Chief Digital and Information Officer (CDIO). He was previously working as Vice President of Digital Strategy and Solutions (Aerospace & Defense) at Cyient. In his new role, Kataria will be driving the digital and IT strategy for Sai Life Sciences, a full-service Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO). Sai Life Science works with innovator pharma and biotech companies globally to accelerate the discovery, development, and manufacture of complex small molecules.

Amit Waghmare takes up CIO role at DB Corp

Amit Waghmare has joined DB Corp as the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Amit has moved on from Page Industries where he was heading IT for more than two years. DB Corp, formerly known as Dainik Bhaskar, is a leading media organization headquartered in Bhopal. Waghmare has over 17 years of work experience in the IT sector with a demonstrated history of working in the Media, Power, Textile, Pharma, Real Estate, Luggage, Apparel, and fashion industry.

09 June 2020 Update

Unique Kumar joins CK Birla Group as Group CISO
Unique Kumar has been appointed as Group CISO of CK Birla Group, a diversified $2.4 billion conglomerate with over 25,000 employees and 41 manufacturing facilities.

Kumar joins the CK Birla group from Max Healthcare, where he was heading Digital Innovation and Cybersecurity. He has also held leadership positions with Aviva Life Insurance, Aptara, and Idea Cellular.

Manish Shetty moves to Diageo India as CIO
Manish Shetty is Diageo India’s new CIO. Shetty was earlier working as Director–IT at Tata Consumer Products. Prior to that, he was CIO at Sanofi and before that Director–IT at Tata Global Beverages. Shetty has also held leadership and managerial positions at companies like Birlasoft, Radian, KPMG US, American Express, and Larsen & Toubro Information Technology.

Diageo plc is a British multinational alcoholic beverages company, with its headquarters in London, England and offices in six continents.

Sun Life names Laura Money as new global EVP and CIO
Sun Life Financial Inc has announced the appointment of Laura Money as Executive Vice-President and Chief Information Officer effective 29 June 2020. Laura will report to Kevin Strain, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice-President, Sun Life. She succeeds Mark Saunders, EVP, and Chief Information Officer, who announced his plans to retire at the end of April next year.

Sun Life is a leading international financial services organization providing insurance, wealth, and asset management solutions to individual and corporate clients. Sun Life has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Bermuda.

31 May 2020 Update

Jayanta Bhowmik joins Kesoram Industries as group CIO
Kesoram Industries is a part of the BK Birla Group Of Companies. The company is engaged in the manufacturing of cement, tyres, tubes, rayon, paper, heavy chemicals, and spun pipes. Bhowmik has moved from Usha Martin, where he served as a Senior Vice President of IT and Group CIO. In his earlier stints, he had held senior leadership positions at Appejay Surrendra Group, Tega Industries, HCL Technologies, and ABP.

Ranjit Satyanath, Head of Technology Operations at Croma, quits
Satyanath had joined Chroma in August 2014, and successfully led the IT strategy and digital initiatives at Croma, one of India’s largest consumer electronics and appliances retailer.

Manish Mimani quits Aviva Life Insurance to become an entrepreneur 
Manish Mimani, CIO for Aviva Life Insurance, has moved on to pursue an entrepreneurship path. Mimani has launched a new cybersecurity firm, Protectt.ai Labs, with an aim to build next-generation mobile security and real-time fraud management solutions.

14 May 2020 Update

Anis Pankhania joins Capgemini as Senior Director – Security Operations and Compliance.
Pankhania is based in Pune and joins Capgemini from Vodafone Idea, where he was heading Security Compliance and Data Privacy. In his new role, Pankhania will lead a team of specialized IT security and risk professionals. Pankhania has earlier worked in senior IT security roles in companies such as Aircel, IBM, and Airtel.

Mihir Joshi joins HDFC Pension Management and HDFC International Life and Re as CISO
In his new role, Joshi will be managing the operations and administration of various IT security devices, solutions, technologies, and processes deployed to enhance the security posture for HDFC Life, HDFC Pension, and HDFC LifeRe. Immediately prior to this, he was with Ares Management Corporation where he set up the Cybersecurity practice from scratch.

BNP Paribas appoints Mannan Godil as Director & India Head, Information Security & Business Continuity Management
Mannan Godil has joined BNP Paribas as Director & India Head, Information Security & Business Continuity Management. He has been roped in from Edelweiss Financial Services where he was working as Senior Vice President, Head – Information Security / CISO. Previously, he had also served in companies, such as eClerx Services, Zener Electronics, Stream Tracmail, and S.S. Nirban Enterprises.

Rajesh Hemrajani is the new CISO at Paytm Payments Bank
Rajesh Hemrajani has been appointed as CISO at Paytm Payments Bank. Prior to this, he was CISO at IDFC First Bank. Previously, he has held several leadership and roles at companies like RBS, Nomura Securities, Emirates Airlines, and Dubal.

Manish Bhatia joins Lendingkart as President – Technology, Analytics & Capabilities
Manish Bhatia has been roped in by Lendingkart as President – Technology, Analytics & Capabilities. In his previous role, he was the CTO at Amazon Pay India. He was also the Co-founder and CTO at Buymaxo, and previously served in organizations like Education Finance Partners, FedEx Office, and JP Morgan Chase.

If you think we’ve missed out featuring any other key recent C-suite movements/appointments in the above list, please feel free to drop a line to us at betterworld@bmnxt.com

Cisco buys IMImobile to reinforce CXaaS capabilities

Cisco buys IMImobile to reinforce CXaaS capabilities

Networking giant Cisco is eyeing the growing pie of customer experience as a service (CXaaS) business as it buys IMImobile, a London-based cloud communications software company, for $730 million, including debt. IMImobile provides software and services that enable businesses to connect to their clients via interactive channels, including social media, messaging, and voice.

According to Cisco, the acquisition will offer an end-to-end customer interaction management solution for customer-facing businesses. IMImobile extensively focuses on customer interaction management (CIM) through several capabilities such as automation, orchestration, and monitoring.

The purchase process will likely complete in the first quarter of 2021, subject to shareholder mandates and approval requirements. After the acquisition, the IMI Mobile team will get integrated into Cisco’s Webex Contact Center business unit, currently headed by Omar Tawakol.

Cisco’s IMI acquisition demonstrates the growing interest of technology specialists in scaling up their collaboration and communications services capabilities to meet the ever-increasing demand for real-time customer interactions. (See: Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint, and Facebook entices creators as it eyes the online events market)

In the middle of the black swan of 2020, organizations are fast turning to cloud services like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. It has forced tech majors like Cisco to transform their business models to meet evolving business demands.Cisco buys IMImobile

Effectively shifting gears

Cisco’s business started as a router company and emerged as a significant internet connectivity supplier for enterprise business in the early 2000s. About three years back, in the wake of changing IT spend forecast, the networking giant announced to restrategize its revenue focus from hardware purchases to a subscription-based model.

At that time, Cisco had set a goal of 30% of its revenue to come from software services a few years back. Cisco achieved 29% of the target in fiscal year ’20 and 31% in Q4 alone. In the fourth quarter of FY2020, Cisco reported a 9% decline in annual revenue to $12.2 billion from $13.43 billion in the year-previous quarter. For Cisco, the positive aspect is to see tremendous demand and pipeline in its biggest customers’ orders in the digital transformation space.

Since the start of the pandemic, the priority of Cisco’s customers has changed rapidly. Enterprises are looking at technologies that can give them agility, security, and more excellent resiliency. Applications have become a lifeline for business continuity, and remote-collaboration tools an essential.

Many of the businesses are keen to adopt a full-scale everything-as-a-service model, and that’s been reflected in Cisco’s software revenues as well. Today, Cisco has about 80 percent of its total software revenue from subscriptions.

Acquiring new capabilities

The focus toward working from anywhere will continue to generate a significant uptake. As a result, businesses are less likely to invest significantly in their on-premise enterprise networks. Instead, they will continue to deploy technologies that could allow them to meet the new demands of digital clients and help their distributed remote staff stay connected and productive.

Given this, the San Jose based tech-giant has recently stepped up its software and subscription offerings by investing heavily in research and development. There has been increased traction in Cisco’s Webex platform, its flagship offering in the space of remote collaboration. The company says it has over 600 million meeting participants on its Webex platform, almost doubling the pre-pandemic days, while online work was still in its infancy.

Cisco is putting substantial efforts into strengthening its Webex’s capabilities to support the growing demand for large online web conferences and virtual events. Several of this year’s acquisitions, such as Slido, IMImobile, and BabbleLabs technology, have been completed to optimize the user experience and improve the delivery of information to Webex customers in multi-cloud environments.

Another area of increasing interest in Cisco’s business remains cloud security as it has become an absolute priority for her customers in the distributed digital world. The company has achieved double-digit sales growth quarter-on-quarter from its security solutions portfolio.

In 2021, the company is expected to continue its acquisition spree, albeit of smaller companies, to strengthen its software capabilities and improve revenues. Cisco is also likely to make substantial investments in the software-defined WAN technology space as organizations rush into the 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) era and plan for a significant increase in data traffic (See: How SD-WAN and IoT can help enterprises unlock ‘smart’ ).

How SD-WAN and IoT can help enterprises unlock ‘smart’

How SD-WAN and IoT can help enterprises unlock ‘smart’

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and internet of things (IoT) technologies have been a hot subject for businesses worldwide for some time. Companies of all sizes have rapidly embraced IoT technology in all areas of the industry. Whether we are talking about manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, transportation, aviation, energy, mining, or metals, technology has proven its capability to everyone.  (See: RPA-led tools helping enterprises sail safely through a storm)

As companies expand their cloud platforms and implement social distancing measures for an unforeseeable future, interests in IoT and SD-WAN rollouts will be more intense. The forthcoming launch of 5G technology will also be a crucial factor determining the success of IoT as it will give businesses and consumers much needed boost to create a smart digitally connected economy.

The SD-WAN is often considered as an unsung hero that allows new technologies like IoT to operate and work to its best potential in a corporate network.

SD-WAN is a progressive wide area network approach that helps organizations support multiple office branches with robust connectivity in a secured and seamless way, through any service provider connection. Compared to the traditional Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), SD-WAN is lower-priced, risk-free, and delivers improved application performance at all levels. It connects business networks across vast geographical locations in a transparent and agile manner.

Let’s understand the four most critical advantages that SD-WAN brings to the table for efficient IoT deployments.

Greater operational agility

The IoT deployments will create a smart workforce of the future, helping businesses predict consumer behaviors, maintain production and supply chain capacities and delivery methodology through robotics, analytics, and intelligent automation tools.

In a traditional network, for instance, an intricate setting comprising a collection of routers, switches, and other hardware equipment is needed to be managed independently. It demands enormous effort and plenty of resources for day to day administration. In an SD-WAN configuration, the hardware mechanism is changed to a software-based function. This makes it very easy to manage network operations. Companies can implement faster changes, set up orchestrations, control their networks easily, and enforce real-time monitoring.

Deployment of SD-WAN allows network administrators to see how different IoT devices in different geographical areas (offices) get bandwidth, security, and other resources to function to their optimum levels.

Enhanced security

The most significant concern IoT deployments have today is security, particularly when it comes to multi-site operations. SD-WAN has the advantage of responding to many IoT security concerns. With SD-WAN, businesses can integrate their broadband access through advanced firewall capabilities.

Network administrators are able to monitor the whole network, as well as the cloud apps and data center. The encrypted SD-WAN channels empower organizations to control branch access and restrict user access to specific network resources or data. Robust user authentication policies prevent network attacks from IoT devices from other network sites.

Vendor agnostic

Another challenge that many businesses face in deploying IoT architectures is the interoperability of devices. As many devices do not necessarily speak the same programming language, they have difficulty connecting with each other. SD-WAN can solve this challenge, as well.

The vendor-agnostic nature of the technology and its ability to run on any existing communication network such as cellular, broadband, and WiFi helps organizations connect IoT devices even in faraway locations.

Cost-efficient, reliable, and better performing

Efficient bandwidth management is often an unpleasant process for companies. SD-WAN technology enables organizations to leverage all network connections to reach their full potential without worrying about managing standby backup links.

In the traditional premises of the network, the addition of any new device, say, in 50 branches may require a manual connection to, 50 routers or switches for necessary modifications to drive the new traffic. This involves not just considerable costs, but also massive human efforts. With an SD-WAN, such changes can be carried out through a central regional center, making networks more agile and resized.

While call-drops can still be pardoned, and many may not make much fuss about it, poor connectivity or lag in IoT enabled environments can create massive trouble for commercial endeavors. SD-WAN ensures that IT leaders are well-equipped with the necessary information to determine which traffic is required and what branch office for superior efficiency.

SD-WAN also enables automation and, reliable and inexpensive links across geographical sites for IoT projects.

Measure your options

By 2021, cutting-edge technologies such as 5G and IoT will further transform business operations. And technologies such as SD-WAN hold the potential to help organizations respond to changing customer patterns more effectively.

However, it is extremely important that enterprises think about their specific needs and requirements before considering SD-WAN deployments. Tech leaders should assess if they want to build their deployments on their own or if they need a managed service provider to deploy SD-WAN network architectures.

Some of the top vendors in this segment include Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, Fortinet, Huawei, Nokia, IBM, and Fujitsu. (See: AT&T and Microsoft join forces to develop secure IoT solution)

 

CIOs’ digital transformation focus accelerates recovery for IT firms

CIOs’ digital transformation focus accelerates recovery for IT firms

With the rise of telework and new ways of working for businesses, enterprise CIOs are rapidly accelerating their digital transformation investments, enabling faster recovery for global IT service companies.

More than 70% of the CIOs today, significantly focusing on accelerating their digital spending and drifting away from capital expenditure to operating expenditure, according to a recent report titled, Future of Technology Services — Navigating the New Normal, by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM).

While most companies are adapting to the new normal, CIOs are under relentless pressure to make their organizations competitive and improve speed to market. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future? and CIOs to focus on network transformation for business continuity)

The rapid transformation route toward digital transformation has heightened the adoption of cloud, artificial intelligence, automation, and analytics. The increased adoption of cloud workloads by enterprises has unfurled the need to modernize architectures with a sharp focus on even the most trivial user requirement. All this has provided an enormous opportunity for IT Services companies to address these challenges by delivering high-set engineering solutions to make the organizations productive and agile. (See: AI-driven analytics is CIOs’ mantra in the new normal)

Since most organizations have already issued a remote work order for an unpredictable future and the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available, CIOs will continue to anchor digital transformation initiatives. (See: Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay)

A huge growth opportunity

According to Nasscom, digital transformation deals have seen a 30 percent jump since the pandemic begins, cloud spending an astonishing 80 percent, and customer experience 15 percent. “With enterprises and CIOs rebalancing technology spend to prioritize digitization, major technology services players have reported better results than analyst expectations in the first and second quarter of FY2021. This is an indication that the global technology services industry may also be well on its way to early recovery,” the Nasscom study expounds.

What Nasscom observes is not surprising. Many industry observers have recently expressed optimism about the expected growth of the IT services market due to improved market sentiment in the US and Europe. In October of this year, the global rating agency Fitch forecasted upward revenue trends in the IT services industry in 2021-2022. (See: Growth of Indian IT sector set for revival in 2021)

Earlier this year, panic resulted in chaos at the onset of the pandemic. There was no way to predict how long it would take to recover. However, our discussions with CIOs and IT leaders have shown that digital technologies’ adoption is the only way companies can remain resilient and overcome disruptions. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020)

CIOs’ digital transformation efforts are aligned with the understanding that every aspect – from service delivery models to talent acquisition and risk management strategies – must be revisited and integrated with the new priorities of their clients.

IT Services firms are also aggressively enhancing their focus on providing smarter, practical solutions to construct agile, integrated, simplified, and more intelligent IT environments for their customers. This has also paved the way for rapid consolidation and acquisition in the digital transformation space, which is expected to continue in the near future. (See: Tech Cos take M&A route for digital transformation supremacy)

The challenge, however, for CIOs of small and medium businesses will largely remain around IT budgets. They will need to rationalize return on investment (ROI) and determine what technology is best suited to their needs.

Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint

Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint

Enterprise software major Salesforce announced today that it is acquiring workplace chatting app Slack in a massive $27.7 billion cash and stock deal. As part of the agreement, Slack shareholders will receive $26.79 in cash and 0.0776 shares of Salesforce common stock against each Slack share. Salesforce is buying Slack to meet the new digital transformation demands of enterprises.

For unversed, Slack is the workplace collaboration software used by organizations as an email alternative. By far, this acquisition is the largest in Salesforce’s two-decades-long history, exceeding its Tableau software purchase, which was estimated at $15.7 billion. Once the transaction is complete, Slack will become an operational unit of Salesforce and continue to be run by the CEO Stewart Butterfield, popularly known as Flickr co-founder.

As Covid-19 cases surge, businesses are re-architecting how they are working and communicating with customers, users, and employees. For organizations, collaborative tools and solutions have become essential in ensuring business continuity and providing an exceptional experience for a growing distributed workforce. That’s what sparked Salesforce’s attention for Slack. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?)

For Salesforce, the most exciting aspect of the purchase is to link its Customer 360 tool with Slack Connect. Salesforce Customer 360 tool enables businesses to connect Salesforce apps and create a unified customer ID to get a complete overview of the customer.

Slack currently has over 70,000 paying customers that are using Slack Connect.

Transformative approach

Slack was first designed for internal office communication. It then became one of the most popular messaging and collaborative tools for virtual meetings, focusing on making it easy for employees to get essential information at a glance. Today, it offers easy instant messaging, rapid file sharing, and integrations with many top-notch services.

Slack’s technology engine allows developers to add the Slack API to their existing ecosystem or merge with various other tools through integration. The most significant advantage Slack boasts about today is its ability to integrate more than 2,400 diverse apps that people use to work together and connect.

With the acquisition, through its cloud-based platform, Salesforce aims to create and provide workspace apps to connect customers in a whole new way. The CRM major is hugely optimistic that the amalgamation will create the broadest open ecosystem of apps and workflows for organizations and allow millions of developers to develop the next generation of apps, using clicks instead of code.

Marc Benioff, Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce, seems to be so thrilled about the deal that he has declared the acquisition as a match made in paradise. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape enterprise software’s future and transform how everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world. I’m thrilled to welcome Slack to the Salesforce Ohana once the transaction closes,” Benioff said in a press release.

Face to face with Microsoft

In 2021, cloud technology will continue to play a pivotal role in driving business for most organizations. The focus will be on integrating new technologies and analytics to link people and data across systems, applications, and devices. Salesforce is preparing to address these needs faced by commercial enterprises in today’s digital universe and maintain pace with its rival Microsoft. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020)

Slack’s buyout is an effort by Salesforce to beef-up the communication apps ecosystem. The purchase of Slack Technologies will enable Salesforce to compete head-to-head with Microsoft Teams, the industry leader in the enterprise communication space, and Cisco Webex.

Over the past few years, Microsoft Teams has achieved several new improvements and achieved substantial growth, primarily since it integrates well with the MS Office 365 subscription productivity package with the Azure Cloud. (See: Online project management tools: Top office suite analysis)

Even in the CRM software space, where Salesforce’s Sales Cloud has been leading for a long time, Microsoft is making rapid progress. Microsoft’s Dynamics platform appears like a serious threat to the supremacy of Salesforce. Businesses that are already running plenty of Microsoft tools mostly prefer the Dynamics platform because of their quick integration.

Salesforce seems to have also sensed the urgency to expand its horizons into the collaboration software space, which has become lucrative amidst the COVID-19 turmoil. The Slack buy will also help Salesforce take a quantum leap in meeting its customers’ new transformation needs.

“As software plays a more and more critical role in the performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a greater degree of alignment and organizational agility. I believe this is the most strategic combination in the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,” says Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO and Cofounder, in a statement.

The Slack buy came after Salesforce had put a lot of effort into creating its enterprise collaboration tool, Chatter, in 2009, and very recently, Salesforce Anywhere with limited success.

 

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