Ringside: Insider Interview with Sahil Rekhi

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Ringside Interview Sahil

In this series of posts, we’re talking to our own leaders to get insights into the challenges and solutions of the telecommunications industry.

This episode is a special one, taking into account what everyone’s going through. At RingCentral, we’re fortunate that it’s our business to enable remote communication and collaboration. When the time came for us to pack up our laptops and take them to work from home, we did it without missing a beat.

We’re also lucky to have the kind of colleagues who didn’t just go home and shut the door, but who responded to market conditions and collaborated on all cylinders to provide faultless sales, service and delivery of the RingCentral platform.

We’ve been inundated with support requests from new and existing customers, and we’ve been working hard to answer the call. Through it all we’ve been guided by the leadership of Sahil Rekhi, Managing Director for RingCentral EMEA. Four weeks later, we catch up with Sahil to talk communications, business technology and working from home.

Sahil is a natural technology evangelist, focussed on driving and enabling business transformation via technology. Having been with RingCentral for the past seven years, Sahil has been responsible for launching and driving key strategic partnerships, growing the EMEA business and telling the RingCentral story globally. Sahil is an industry veteran with 15+ years of experience in the telecommunications and technology industries, having previously worked for Vodafone on Group strategy and the launch of FMC and unified communications services internationally.

Sahil, what’s your role at RingCentral and what does a typical day look like?

I am VP of Sales & Operations for EMEA as well as MD EMEA. My responsibility is to drive growth and expansion of the RingCentral business in this region whilst ensuring smooth operations of the business on a daily basis as we scale. A regular day at RingCentral for me is super-varied across a wide spectrum and that’s what makes it challenging and interesting for me.

Starting the day off with employee-success related discussions often sets the tone for the rest of my day and even my week. This is followed by key conversations on sales, marketing, deployment services or care, then switching to customer feedback, prospect engagements and business development conversations with people outside the business. Eventually, the evening gives me an opportunity to connect with our colleagues and the leadership team back in HQ California, and this helps drive some of the day’s work forward and push alignment for our regional growth plans with our global strategies.

What kind of challenges and opportunities do you see from your position?

The opportunities in this role and for everyone at RingCentral are massive. As an organisation, I believe RingCentral is not just a category leader in the communications space, but more of a category defining company, charging from the front.

Communication is natural and inherent to the human species; we are social animals and we like to win and be successful, this is where our human instincts kick in to push us towards working, socialising and engaging with people around us – or should I say “collaborating for success”. RingCentral is enabling this human connection to make a difference for our customers.

This drive for human connection, alongside an always innovating product, awesome people, and a market opportunity of over $60B, creates the perfect storm and once-in-a-lifetime inflection point. I would like each person at RingCentral to recognise this moment and stay humble on being focussed to extend this momentum further for years to come.

Challenges are many: For the company, driving fast growth and scaling while maintaining an agile, mobilised and inclusive culture is tough, but not impossible. Delivering on this is what differentiates us from others in the market. As for challenges in my role: Scaling fast enough to fulfill the pent-up demand for cloud communications in the region is what keeps me up at night. The market was already shifting extremely quickly, since cloud communications was recognised as the only answer for digital continuity in the transforming business world. What we’ve seen play out over the past four to eight weeks has only exacerbated that.

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In what ways has business communications changed over your career?

I’ve watched business communications evolve considerably: From voice and email being primary modes of communications – now group messaging and collaboration have taken the prime seat, with voice and video being a close second.

In scaling fast-evolving organisations, making decisions with the right data points is critical. These need to be made quickly, but geographic barriers and location hindrance caused by lack of mobility slow down this process. The impact can be hard-felt on business revenues. The introduction of RingCentral to this situation allows me to have all my data, communications and ability to engage delivered to me anywhere on any device from the cloud. The result is that just because I’m out of office or travelling, that doesn’t hinder me from making decisions to drive the business forward.

We’re now seeing this scenario play out across the world as we all settle into the new normal of remote working. The shift has been positively embraced by many businesses, but some are facing greater challenges than others: pressures such as panic buying on the supply chain and forced closure on hospitality require some serious creativity to mitigate. The importance of keeping people connected and delivering effective communication is absolutely critical.

The importance of keeping people connected and delivering effective communication is absolutely critical. Click To Tweet

Beyond obvious examples, what advice can you give to a business wishing to improve its communication?

Business communication is now more instantaneous and effective in real-time, driving an increase in the pace of business. The evolution of social and personal communications services have created a culture of instant response and gratification. This expectation is not just limited to collaboration between employees, but has extended beyond to becoming a key pillar of improving customer experience and hence driving business growth. My advice to businesses of any size is to look at the communications solution they are using across multiple facets given the importance of this as per the view above:

  • Ease of use and simplicity. We live and breathe communications, and ease of use plays a big part in our expectations as users. If the experience of your solution is not as simple as ‘it just works’ you will not maximise the benefits of using it
  • Open service to allow for automation of business workflows. This results in easier customer experience (CX) and hence better employee experience (EX) and higher revenue
  • If the business operates internationally, a communications and collaboration service with a global footprint will allow the business peace of mind.
  • Find a solution that gives you flexibility to use the service to best meet the business needs.

Communications is the lifeline of any business. So when deploying a service, think about behavioural change, process change and adoption of the new services within your organisation. A switch and evolution in such a business-critical service gives you the opportunity to redefine people, culture and customers for your business.

What’s RingCentral’s role in the response to Coronavirus?

We’ve seen numerous technology companies stepping up to offer free products and services in the wake of the new restrictions, and that’s incredibly encouraging. We applaud those efforts and we’re humbled at the display of humanity. RingCentral has been doing what RingCentral does best: business continuity through cloud-based communications and collaboration.

Initially, we offered free use of RingCentral Office to healthcare, compulsory education and non-profit organisations. We’ve since extended that offer to include colleges, public sector and news & media organisations that are helping to keep the world functioning in the face of self-isolation. If anyone thinks they could take advantage of that provision, please get in touch via our website and we’ll get you set up.

Besides the free offer, our engineers have been working (around the clock, in some cases) to help organisations keep functioning despite restrictions. Of course, we’ve received a lot of calls from new customers who need to adopt cloud communications for the first time. We’ve also offered support to many existing customers who need help forwarding office-bound communications to mobile devices and truly harnessing the capability of the RingCentral product.

We’ve had some incredible feedback – it tells us we’re not only doing the right thing as a company, but as individuals our contribution matters. We’re thrilled to be able to help people carry on what they want to be doing. We’re also eternally grateful for the comments we’ve received on social media from companies including Moorepay, Arco, BigChange, Stephenson Harwood and Fulham FC.

We’re far from finished. We’ll keep putting our customers first and helping people to connect in the way they need to. To help everyone adjust to the new world of work, we’ve set up a remote working resources hub and we’ve been running daily webinars on how to get started working from home. We’re creating new content all the time, and everyone is free to use this to help make working from home work for them. We also partnered with UC Today to run our Contact Centre Expo online to keep it available for everyone.

Do you anticipate future ramifications of the current situation?

Businesses are being forced into a situation they were reluctant to fully embrace when they had a choice. That reluctance was based on several areas of uncertainty, plus I think a perceived loss of control and the fear of that. Now the question isn’t around ‘whether we can make that work’ but ‘we have to make this work – how will we do it?’.

It’s amazing what we’re capable of when we’re pushed to it. Over the past few weeks, businesses have been learning that productivity doesn’t have to be compromised by operating remotely. On the contrary, that kind of mobility can enable businesses to be more agile and responsive, and improve productivity by focussing on making collaboration a success. I don’t want to say “we told you so” but I will say that now we’ve been exposed to this idea, it can’t be unseen.

Before working from home became ubiquitous, it was already on the rise in the UK and across Europe, driven by technological enablement and employee expectation. As businesses adapt to the restrictions of containment, they are forced to recognise that guaranteeing business continuity rests on enabling everyone – from interns to managing directors – to work remotely. 

A re-landscaped playing field has driven businesses to find ways to thrive in a new climate. As long as this works for them, there’s no reason to reverse that innovation. Unfortunately, we’ve discovered a third of UK businesses still don’t have the technology in place to support long-term remote working. I think that gap really needs to be addressed, because we’re unlikely to return to the office anytime soon – and even when we’re able to, it won’t be in the same capacity.

As some people have been saying, we need to consider this as the ‘new normal’ and invest in ways to make it work for us. We’re shaping our own future, in that respect. I don’t think we’ll be ‘going back’ to anything. There’s not tremendous certainty over where realising the future of work will take us, but I’m convinced it won’t be the same as where we’ve come from.

As we thank Sahil for such an in-depth contribution, we remind you all to be vigilant in keeping safe and healthy. There’s lots of advice and information to help you set up working from home if you need help on anything from infrastructure to self-management. In the meantime, look out for more episodes in this series of Ringside.

Originally published Apr 07, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023

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