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Sloka Telecom: A small but growing presence

May 30, 2011
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The ground beneath Bangalore-based Sloka Telecom just got a bit firmer. The company, which was founded with a seed capital of Rs 6 million, has received venture funding worth $600,000 from the Karnataka Information Technology Venture Capital Fund. In a statement, the company said that it plans to use the additional capital to boost its manufacturing logistics and marketing, and streamline its supply chain.

Elaborating on the company’s plans, Sujai Karampuri, co-founder and chief executive officer, Sloka Telecom, said, “In the past couple of years, Sloka has helped service providers rapidly and profitably roll out services, especially those offering services in the unlicensed spectrum category. This round of funding will allow us to continue increasing market share and innovate further in providing a wider range of radio access network (RAN) solutions.”

For a company that has kept a relatively low profile over the past few years, Sloka now seems more determined to make its presence felt in the telecom market. To that end, the past year has been a busy one for the company, forming various partnerships, enhancing its product portfolio and expanding its customer base.

Background 

Founded in 2004, Sloka Telecom is a RAN solution provider. It is engaged in the design, development and sales of compact and cost-effective base stations for new technology standards such as fixed and mobile Wi-Max and 3G LTE.

The company’s clientele mostly comprises internet service providers (ISPs) who deploy its products as a part of their wireless network to offer broadband services to enterprises, small and medium businesses, and residences.  Over the next few years, the company plans to focus on Tier 2 and Tier 3 ISPs and enable them to launch wireless broadband services using unlicensed frequency in the 5.8 GHz range. Currently, You Broadband and Cable India are among the company’s major customers.

In terms of products, Sloka aims to offer a wide variety of point-to-multipoint wireless products for enterprise connectivity, home connectivity, video surveillance and streaming applications (including telephony). It is also looking to provide point-to-point wireless connectivity products for backhaul.

To this end, the company has earmarked nearly Rs 150 million in investments for the next two years to cover its marketing, customer trials, manufacturing and R&D activities. At present, half of the company’s sales come from the domestic market and the rest from the export of equipment to Southeast Asia, South America and Africa.  In fact, the company has partnered with various ISPs in Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia. This fiscal, the company is targeting a total revenue of Rs 150 million.

Recent initiatives 

In February 2011, the company launched a portfolio of wireless broadband solutions targeted at wireless ISPs. The company offers these solutions in both the licensed and unlicensed spectrums of 3.3-3.6 GHz and 5.8 GHz respectively. This product suite is aimed at providing last mile access for broadband and telephony networks. The suite consists of point-to-multipoint access for wide area coverage, and point-to-point access for long distance backhaul. It is based on the company’s patent-pending software defined base station architecture.

“Our Wi-Max solution will reduce the cost of the equipment to Rs 2,700 for ISPs offering a new broadband connection. Similarly, the Ethernet solution will enable wide area coverage of 5-6 km in urban areas and the Wi-Fi solution will enable point-to-point access of up to 50 km,” explains  Karampuri.

The company has also announced its range of solutions in the unlicensed spectrum range, allowing small and medium wireless ISPs to provide broadband subscription to their customers without having to pay for expensive frequency licences.

Its efforts in the domestic market seem to be paying off too. In the past six months, the company has garnered four major ISPs as its customers. “The biggest achievement has been to convert some of their purely wireline business plans to a combination of wireless and wireline,” says Karampuri.

The company’s activities are, however, not only confined to domestic shores. Sloka has recently launched its fixed Wi-Max solution portfolio, consisting of base stations, subscriber stations, AAA and NMS in Southeast Asia, South America and Africa.

Key challenges 

According to industry experts, the biggest challenge before Sloka is to scale up its operations and retain clients in a space that is witnessing the entry of experienced players such as Nokia Siemens Network and Qualcomm. Also, being a relative newcomer, the company faces stiff competition from integrated enterprise service providers. Sloka needs to chalk out a carefully planned strategy, keeping in mind potential problem areas and business opportunities.

Karampuri, however, seems quite optimistic about the company’s prospects. Sloka’s USP, he says, lies in “its ability to develop and deliver robust products and solutions in the competitive area of wireless at an affordable price suitable for customers in emerging markets like India.” It has designed radio access units that are extremely compact, light-weight and cost effective, while drawing very low power.

Conclusion 

Though a relatively new player, Sloka has already carved a niche for itself. Over the next few years, the company aims to have eight ISPs as its customers in India, with nearly 40 per cent of its revenues coming from this market in the next one year. Over the next three years, Sloka aims to become a large player offering radio access solutions to BWA markets using multiple technologies such as LTE and Wi-Max.

 
 
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