Haptik raises Series B funding from Times Internet, as Kalaari exits


Haptik, a chat-based personal assistant app, on Tuesday announced that it had raised an undisclosed Series B round and forged a strategic alliance with Times Internet. The funds will be used for product development, improving artificial intelligence capabilities, and business operations. In 2014, Haptik had raised a $1 million Series A round from Kalaari Capital. Kalaari has now exited Haptik, with the current fund raise.

Story so far

The team

Founded by Aakrit Vaish and Swapan Rajdev in 2013, Haptik is a mobile-first app platform that enables users to get daily tasks done by chatting with assistants. An engineering graduate from University of Illinois, Aakrit has prior experience in this space having been an early employee of Flurry in US and in his role as Director of Operations in India.

In an earlier interview with YourStory, Aakrit mentioned that they launched their beta version in 2013 and named the app ‘Batman’ for the lack of a better name. They later decided to go with 'Haptik', taking inspiration from the word 'haptic' meaning non-verbal feedback.

Officially launched in 2014, Haptik’s app has been downloaded by over one million users and has been featured multiple times in the Google Play Store and iOS App Store among the best apps in India. After its launch, the app grew exponentially to a team of 19 people, and 80 chat experts on board answering user queries.

Haptik is now positioning itself as a gateway to various services on your smartphone, with the goal of simplifying multiple, complex applications into one, easy to use chat interface. The most popular requests that Haptik fulfills include online shopping, travel bookings, food delivery, restaurant reservations, mobile plan recharges, etc.

Related read from March 2015: For Aakrit Vaish of Haptik the roller coaster startup ride trumps running a family business

In May 2014, Haptik onboarded NLP expert Dan Roth to improve the technology layer under its 150 chat experts. In 2016, it partnered with Samsung Mobiles to offer a pre-built messaging concierge service to their users. Now with the latest funding round, moving towards mass adoption, Haptik will now look to leverage Times Internet’s reach of 150 million engaged users to offer its service to a wider audience. Haptik now consists of a core team of 45 and has grown to 300 assistants.

Aakrit, CEO of Haptik, added that they are happy to partner with Times Internet and look forward to leveraging synergies. He said in a statement,

We started Haptik so that consumers could get the most out of their phones, without the huge learning curve of navigating hundreds of different apps. Ordering food or checking into a flight should be as easy as asking for it, and that’s what Haptik can do.

Haptik claims to have grown multifold in the last one year. It now processes over half a million requests per month, out of which 25 per cent are completed using artificial intelligence. The company works with fulfillment partners, including Flipkart, Cleartrip, Via.com, Urbanclap, Dineout, etc.

Talking about user behaviour, Aakrit told YourStory that Haptik generally sees highest activity from users on Sundays and in the evenings on weekdays. About the variety of features in Haptik now and in the pipeline he said, "We generally rely on user feedback to figure out what features to include next. Our T20 World Cup tab did well because of the context and immense user interest."

Talking about the sector and their investment, Gautam Sinha, CEO of Times Internet, said,

Haptik is a magical experience for consumers, and it’s part of a growing global trend towards chat-based commerce. They have great affinity amongst their current users, and we hope to help them continue to innovate on the service, while expanding their userbase.

Sector overview

Mobile concierge and chat-based commerce has seen a lot of interest globally as well as in India. Although still in its infancy, Facebook’s virtual assistant for Messenger ‘M’ is an interesting player in this space. Relying on both manual intervention and AI, M helps users with tasks they aim to do. Facebook’s long-term goal is to make Messenger a stickier platform and get users to shop and make purchases through it. In January 2016, WhatsApp dropped its $1 annual subscription fee and announced its plans to enter the B2B sector by onboarding businesses on their platform.

Y Combinator backed Magic and UK-based Dispatch.pm are other interesting players in the on-demand task fulfilment space. Zirtual is targeted at professionals and unlike the above on demand public services, it provides startups and large enterprises a dedicated virtual assistant for a monthly subscription fee.

In India, Helpchat (earlier Akosha) raised a 100 crore Series B round from Sequoia Capital in May 2015. It was in the news again in October for mass firing as it tweaked its value proposition from resolving complaints to becoming a personal assistant. Most recently in March 2016, personal task management startup dunzo raised $650K from Blume Ventures and Aspada. Khosla Impact and Biz Stone backed Lookup Messenger, Yellow Messenger, Localoye are other interesting players in this space.

Website: Haptik

(Disclaimer: Kalaari Capital is an investor in YourStory)


Updates from around the world