Two Ph.D drop outs fighting it out to make a killer product aiming for the moonshot
A few months ago, we had written about Memetic Lab’s Barometer which is a real time infographic for top Indian brands. A fascinating tool in itself, I didn’t know much about about the people behind it at that time. But now, almost 8 months later, they've launched their first product for the market, Airwoot which is ready to come out of beta. I got in touch with them to know about the developments and what unearthed, was much more than just a product.
Saurabh Arora and Prabhat Saraswat are the folks behind Airwoot. The year was 2008 and Technical University of Denmark, the place. Two young men, Saurabh and Prabhat were pursuing their masters and PhD., exposing themselves to a lot of new perspectives. Here they met and became friends and found out that they shared some common interests. “We discovered art, music and much more importantly- the power of ideas, while we were studying here,” says Saurabh.
After the course, Prabhat continued his doctorate in Denmark while Saurabh went on to pursue his doctorate in cloud computing architectures, at Hasso-Plattner Institute in Berlin. They were in touch on and off, but in a strange turn of events, both dropped out of their PhD’s and returned to India.
It was 2011 by now and Saurabh was working for a digital media company (Fluid Digital) while Prabhat was backpacking all over India. Once again by chance they met each other and attended a few hackathons from November 2011 to February 2012. Brain jamming together, they set up Memetic Labs where they implemented a couple of ideas:
1) An android app which can listen to any live music and generate guitar tablatures
2) A social reading app which finds out who is reading what by listening to public twitter feeds
And then the idea evolved…
While playing around, the duo started algorithmically mining consumer buying intentions from Twitter -- to predict the next money spent. “While, looking at the data, we realized more consumers were in fact complaining about the product than accepting and endorsing the product,” says Saurabh. They started tracking 35 most active international brands on Twitter, as a result of which Barometer (barometer.airwoot.com) was born.
Barometer is a realtime infographic to gauge a brand's social customer care practices. Barometer listens to conversations between users and brands as they happen on Twitter and visualizes them in realtime. “We wanted to spread awareness of social customer care as a practice, that brands should follow as a defined business process,” says Saurabh about Barometer. This was also their platform for the launch of Airwoot -- a social customer support helpdesk.
About AirwootHere’s what they’d write on the ‘About Us’ page: Airwoot is a New Delhi based social media listening and analytics startup that helps businesses to engage with their customers on social media and provide real-time customer support.
For the novice, Airwoot is for brands who’re having a tough time listening to what users are throwing at them on social media. There are appreciations, complains, rants, SOS calls by thousands of social media citizens! Manual sieving is not possible and this is where Airwoot intends to help by providing the brand with support so that it can prioritize and take the necessary action in real time.
Currently piloting with some of the top brands in India, they plan to come out of beta by late April. A knowledge-based product with the vision to change how customer support is done, the duo is aiming for a moonshot - a 10x gain.
Aiming for the moonshot is all hunky dory but who’s paying their bills for the rocket fuel? “Raising funds is one of the most challenging parts to break into the entrepreneurial world. It is hard and there is no question about it,” shares Saurabh. Surviving on a shoestring budget, the duo hasn’t got it all on a plate. Looking for funding, they tried going the accelerator way and found home with The Morpheus - a Chandigarh based accelerator founded by husband-wife, Sameer and Nandini. The Morpheus is in it's 9th batch currently and has more than 70 companies in their portfolio.
"We (At Morpheus) love the passion and craziness with which these guys have been working towards building a product that we believe will change the way brands interact with their customers, build public opinion about their brand or increase revenues for themselves," says Nandini.
The Morpheus had put in Rs 5 lakhs which has given them more time to develop the product and undergo the beta test. Now, they’re in talks with investors to scale up the product and team. So far, it’s only been Saurabh and Prabhat who’ve been running the show along with a developer they hired.
So, will it be all worth the effort?
Going by the indications, social media is here to stay and the biggest brands have realized the potential social media holds. If you give them a product that’ll let them manage their social media real time, they’ll surely be interested. Airwoot hasn’t finalized the pricing as yet but it’ll be a SaaS product that can be bought as a package. For instance, a brand can buy a package that can be used by 4-5 agents for around $400 per month.
Brands have shown interest in the product and if Airwoot is able to tap the right channels, there is surely scope to achieve the moonshot. The journey might still have more obstacles but customer support is surely a problem that requires better solutions and with a passionate team shaping the company, Airwoot has a better chance at shooting for the stars.