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Zoom Video Communications Inc is navigating life after the pandemic by acting like the past two years never happened.
As the world shut down in 2020, its corporate videoconferencing app became a household name, delivering quarter after quarter of triple-digit growth in part by attracting millions of regular people and small businesses. Zoom seemed destined to become a consumer tech titan.
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But while executives waxed poetic about facilitating graduation parties and family dinners, they never intended to become a destination for everyday people and weren’t able to sustain the momentum. Besides, corporate customers have deeper pockets and don’t drive bad press by Zoom-bombing each other or fumbling privacy settings.
“When the pandemic crisis hit us, we were not ready,” founder and chief executive officer Eric Yuan said in a March interview, comparing the experience to leaping from a high school basketball team to the NBA. After two years of trying to monetise demand from consumers, many of whom were sticking with free 40-minute calls, Yuan is ready to return Zoom to its roots: a provider of business software. Investors aren’t convinced he can make it work.
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Quarterly revenue surged 54% to US$1bil (RM4.40bil) last July, but growth shrivelled to 12% in the period that ended in April. And Microsoft Corp, the world’s biggest software maker, is Zoom’s chief competitor. The stock, which jumped sixfold to a high of US$568.34 (RM2,506.10) in October 2020, is now hovering near pre-pandemic levels and dipped as much as 6.3% to US$104.78 (RM462.03) on June 30 in New York, the biggest intraday decline in two weeks.
The question is whether focusing on the corporate market can revive growth, particularly as a rough economic environment could spur cost-cutting, said Matthew Niknam, an analyst at Deutsche Bank. “The bear case is that anybody who needs Zoom has it already,” he said.
That’s certainly true for everyday users and small businesses, which make up about half of Zoom’s sales – a level that’s now expected to remain stagnant. “You’re not going to sell a lot more product to the consumers,” said Meta Marshall, an analyst at Morgan Stanley.
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But Yuan is confident in his strategy. Ever the basketball fan, he said true success takes time, citing the careers of National Basketball Association stars LeBron James and the late Kobe Bryant as players who didn’t win their first championships until years after they started in the league.