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Cisco CEO: 'We’ve Had 5.5B Meeting Minutes' During Coronavirus Pandemic In March

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins appeared on CNBC to talk about surging videoconferencing numbers, but more importantly, how private enterprises must step up and help their communities during the coronavirus crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has not only brought travel to a screeching halt, but it’s also pushed many companies to mandate work from home policies to protect their employees and help curb the spread of the outbreak.

While many areas of the tech industry are struggling due to lower IT spending globally, the videoconferencing segment is blowing up. Cisco Systems, which owns popular global videoconferencing platform Webex, is seeing an unprecedented uptick in the use of its product.

During the first 11 business days of March, Cisco has logged 5.5 billion meeting minutes on Webex. On Monday, March 16 alone, the San Jose, Calif.-based tech giant held 3.2 million meetings globally on Webex, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins told CNBC on Tuesday.

[Related: Cisco Employs Mandatory Work From Home Policy Due To Coronavirus]

“In the last 11 days our volumes have literally doubled. Since the outbreak in China, we saw 22 times the traffic coming out of China, and we’ve seen four times the traffic in Korea, Japan, and other areas, and we were already the biggest platform in the world,” Robbins said.

Cisco earlier this month expanded the capabilities on its free Webex offer in all countries where it is available. The new Webex features include unlimited usage or no time restrictions and support for up to 100 participants. Cisco is also providing free 90-day licenses to businesses who are not Webex customers in this time of need through its sales team and Cisco partners, said Sri Srinivasan, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Team Collaboration Group, said in a March blog post.

Robbins said that Cisco is building as fast as possible to keep up with demand. “Our teams are working 24/7. We’re trying to boost our collaboration team's and our security team's spirits because they’re working around the clock,” he said. “We’re giving a lot of the technology away for free for now until we get through this issue. We are working as hard as we can, and all our peers are doing similar things. I think it’s great I see everyone coming together and keep the companies productive while we’re going through this crisis.”

Swelling videoconferencing numbers aside, the tech industry is experiencing a slow-down as global IT spending has plummeted. Robbins acknowledged that while the fiscal quarter will undoubtedly be negatively impacted, the private sector should be prioritizing their efforts on helping their communities through the crisis.

“I [know] this is the right thing to do. As it relates to this crisis in this quarter, we all just have to do the right thing for people and not worry about the quarter,” he said.

Cisco, along with more than 30 other Silicon Valley-based companies came together last week to tackle the issues of helping people financially during the outbreak. Food pantries and shelters are lacking volunteers right now who are practicing social distancing and are worried about contracting coronavirus. Hunger issues are also cropping up as a result of school being closed.

Robbins said that giving back to the community is top of mind for Cisco under normal circumstances, but right now, it’s a critical concern.

“One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that giving back to your community and helping those who are less fortunate is critical to our employees and they increasingly want to work for companies that care about the community in which they live. I think that we get the best employees when we do these things. They innovate more, they're more excited about coming to work, and I think that’s one of the good things our customers appreciate. In general, it fits very well into our economic strategy we have for a business plan.”

Robbins remains confident, however, that Cisco’s balance sheet will remain solid and the market will recover over the coming months. At the same time, the crisis will show businesses how important it is to have a scalable infrastructure that can meet the fluid needs of employees, such as the capacity to secure, enable remote working.

“Right now, the irony is that what we need our companies to understand how to build at-scale infrastructure to support what’s going on in the world,” he said. This is unprecedented, [but] I think it’s bringing new requirements to bear.”


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