How Kerala-based Techgentsia built its Made-in-India video conferencing solution Vconsol that rivals Zoom, Google Meet
On August 21, there was a sudden surge in searches across the world for ‘’, ‘Joy Sebastian’, and ‘Vconsol’ - not just in India, but across the world as well.
No surprises there.
Joy Sebastian established Techgentsia in 2009, along with his friend Tony Thomas, to provide R&D in the internet communication and collaboration domains. Image Credit: Techgentsia
Just the day before, Techgentsia Software was declared the winner of the Grand Challenge for Developing Video Conference Solution by the Government of India. The company claimed that its revolutionary video conferencing solution was ‘more secure, faster and reliable than its competitors’.
What sets Vconsol apart?
With Vconsol, audio and video streams from all participants are collected and mixed on the server side and sent back to participants as a single stream for enhanced performance and reliability.
Vconsol follows a compression standard based on block-oriented, motion-compensated, integer-DCT coding, and provides good video quality at substantially lower bit rates than most standards - without increasing the complexity of the design.
Vconsol is also encrypted with AES-256 GCM for confidentiality and authentication. It supports the largest bit size and is practically unbreakable by brute force based on current computing power, making it the strongest encryption standard.
With a product so secure, reliable, and highly practical, India may have finally found its long-overdue indigenous video-conferencing solution.
A celebration of small-town India
Joy Sebastian, CEO and Co-founder of Techgentsia, hails from Kerala’s Alappuzha district, a place that's best known for houseboat cruises along the rustic backwaters, a network of tranquil canals and lagoons.
Techgentsia is based out of a village called Pallipuram in Cherthala in a state government-owned info park.
Joy’s story is a tale of self-reliance. He is a first-generation learner in his family. His father, Sebastian, was a fisherman, and his mother Mary, a housewife.
Joy, who completed his higher secondary education from a government school around 25 years ago, had never imagined he would find himself the centre of international attention one day. After completing his MCA from TKM College in Kollam, Joy joined an audio conferencing tools company in Kochi in 2000.
He went on to start Techgentsia in 2009, along with his friend Tony Thomas, and built this company that focuses on providing research and development in the internet communication and collaboration domains.
Having won the Grand Challenge, the company will be supported with a grant of Rs 1 crore, and an additional Rs 10 lakh each year for OEM for the next three years. The video conferencing tool will also be adopted by the government through a contract.
A better quality of video conferencing
Vconsol is a fully integrated, enterprise-grade solution that can operate on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and Linux. The completely made-in-India product contains all video conferencing features available in existing solutions and can host up to 80 people in one conference.
Speaking to YourStory, Joy explained how the technology used by Vconsol differs from existing solutions such as Zoom or Google Meet.
“The technology is a little different from existing solutions such as Google Meet. Actually, the technology used in premium and enterprise solutions of Zoom is the same as Vconsol; I am not denying that. What we provide is the server-side mixing model under which videos provided by multiple participants are stitched together in the server in real time and a single stream of video is provided to them. Other solutions such as Google Meet forward videos without stitching it together. Apart from this, Vconsol supports all three video conferencing protocols available in the market,” Joy said.
Speaking about the encryption standard, the co-founder also explained that end-to-end encryption of data is actually not possible at the time when the data us processed in the server. He added that this point was explained during the presentation for the Grand Challenge.
“When we call something truly end-to-end encrypted, there should be no intermediate manipulation. Our technology stitches the video into one stream after receiving the videos from the client side. So the video is encrypted from the client's side but is broken for the mixing on the server; the single stream is again encrypted and sent back to the client so it is secured but not truly end-to-end encrypted.
"Complete end-to-end encryption can be done only in one-to-one communication. Multiple streams that require optimisation in the server cannot be fully encrypted. I am talking about it because I want it to be clear; I highlighted this point even during the challenge,” Joy said.
Vconsol operates on the server-side mixing model under which videos provided by multiple participants are stitched together in the server in real time and a single stream of video is provided to them. Image Credit: Techgentsia
An accidental entrepreneur
Talking about his entrepreneurial journey, Joy said he never had any intention to become an entrepreneur. Coming from an economically deprived family, his aim was to land a job after completing his master’s degree in computer science from TKM College of Engineering.
After working in a few companies, in 2006, Joy worked as a remote consultant for a US-based company. “I was working for them remotely from Kerala. During this time, I needed some more people to help me with the work. I was bearing their cost and so decided to start my own enterprise,” Joy said.
When asked about starting up in Kerala, Joy said technology-related work could be done from everywhere. He added that expenses such as office rent were extremely high in metropolitan cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
“If I have to pay Rs 1 lakh as rent for a small office in such cities, I would rather use it to employ talented engineers,” he said.
Joy also revealed that the majority of his team members are native to Kerala and have been handpicked by him. “My team members are some of the best engineers I have come across.”
Speaking about their participation in the Grand Challenge, Joy said he had no interest but was forced by his friends and colleagues. With this kind of support from the government, India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem will develop like that of the US within the next few decades, he added.
Business and future plans
Joy revealed that Vconsole was currently available only to a limited circle of central government officials. The company plans to launch Vconsol in September 2020, with an initial target of securing one million users.
The co-founder said the pricing model was yet to be decided upon, but the video conferencing solution would be available on a subscription-based model.
Speaking about future plans, the CEO revealed that apart from the business conferencing platform, the company was also working and developing Vconsol Education, a virtual classroom facility with built-in security features to protect the privacy of students. Another solution, Vconsol Family, was being built for the B2C segment.
“Currently we plan to ride this popularity wave due to the Grand Challenge and onboard as many clients as we can within the next few months,” Joy said.
(Edited by Ryan Frantz and Teja Lele Desai)