by Radhika Nallayam

Essar Eases Employee Communication Using Video Streaming

Jun 19, 20144 mins
BusinessCIOCloud Computing

Essar created its own video channel, creating a secure, engaging and entertaining way to communicate with a large base of employees spread across multiple locations.

Communication Programming Company: Essar Technology:  Streaming media, IPTV  

Essar employs over 73,000 people, that’s more than the entire population of Greenland, the world’s largest island!

Here is another interesting figure: YouTube processes 3 billion searches a month and is the second largest search engine after Google.

Wondering what the link is? Both are illustrative of the power of video and why many believe that it’s the most effective communication method. While Youtube is the big daddy of video, Essar has to its credit a niche TV initiative, which is used primarily for internal communication with its 73,000 employees.

Called eView, the project is much more than merely sharing content in a video format. eView can be called as the BBC of Essar; the company’s own broadcasting or streaming service. The programs are about Essar, are produced by the Essar team, and are broadcast over the company’s network to Essar employees.

Today, when you walk into an Essar office, it’s hard to miss the large LCD monitors that play different programs. But unlike companies that play cricket or the news, you will see programs streaming exclusively for the employees. These include news bulletins, messages from senior management, various CSR activities, and HR-led events and programs that delve into lighter subjects like the company’s family day celebrations.

Programs like ‘Walk the Talk’, ‘Beyond Business’, ‘30 Min’ and ‘Business Diary’ are big hits among Essar employees. Video has always been used as an effective internal communication medium and as a method to create greater employee commitment. In the past, Essar has used video to share organizational news, employee communication, and leadership messages. But extending it further to form an in-house TV streaming service was going the full distance. Shivnath Thukral, group president, corporate branding and strategic initiatives at Essar, also heads the TV initiative in the company. Earlier, Thukral was the group business editor for NDTV. It then comes as no surprise that Essar’s Mahalaxmi office in Mumbai owns a state-of-the-art studio and a full-fledged video crew that travels across various Essar locations to shoot programs.

What makes the initiative even more interesting is that the final programs are then made available not just on TV screens. Employees can access these videos through their individual desktops, laptops, tablets, iPads, and smart phones.

“Our vision was to use video as a method to communicate in a secure, engaging, and entertaining manner. Companies traditionally use e-mail or circular letters to send out internal communication. We wanted to break that trend,” says Thukral.

The results were instant. Employees were able to connect with the company’s promoters and co-workers from different locations. They were able to recognize and learn from various CSR initiatives across locations. Their curiosity doubled as they watched videos, and that made them more than willing to be part of different programs, increasing employee involvement.

Employees sitting in different locations like Hazira, Vadinar, and Tori were able to stream eView at any time of the day. Thukral’s team could also customize the content for the company’s external website.

Other than Thukral’s crew, another team was quietly working to make eView a big success: The IT department, under the watchful eye of CTO N. Jayantha Prabhu. Prabhu and his team literally re-engineered the company’s network to make it ‘video-friendly’.

Bandwidth consumption was naturally a big concern for Prabhu. How is it possible to stream multiple video channels over a single network?

“Networks are typically built for data. Video being a bandwidth hungry application, we had to re-look at multiple new factors. WAN optimization appliances, for instance, ensured compression of bandwidth between locations, without really increasing the bandwidth and the cost associated with it,” says Prabhu.

The team also installed multiple tools to prioritize bandwidth and ensure that video uses only bandwidth that was allocated to it, and that it does not encroach upon the bandwidth given for transactional systems like ERP. The project also called for additional infrastructure in terms of content libraries, servers, storage, and media gateway boxes at each locations. Each desktop also had to be enabled for video viewing.

Another key challenge for Prabhu was the deployment of IPTVs. “IPTVs were not very common in the market when we started this initiative. So we came up with a solution by installing LCD/plasma TVs with media gateways. That served the need. Recently, we have deployed IPTVs in some of our locations,” adds Prabhu.

With the first phase of eView a roaring success, Prabhu and Thukral have already started the rollout of eView 2.0.