Software product companies have never been our calling card. India has traditionally struggled to produce champion companies in this space, due to a variety of factors. YourStory brings to you a dozen startups in the space, under #ProductUprising which have the potential to scale, despite the hurdles.
Ozonetel was one of the first few startups that pioneered cloud telephony, and is now erasing boundaries by bringing in Artificial Intelligence to call centres.
Founder: CSN Murthy
Year it was founded: 2007
Problem it solves: Improving business communication using cloud telephony
Funding raised: Angel funding
Based out of: Hyderabad
Think communication and the one theme that runs across would be rapid innovation. Just 20 years ago, we were sitting in post offices, booking 3-minute trunk calls to family and friends. Then came telephones, but they offered a measure of ambiguity as they did not offer caller identification, be it about the person calling, or the location.
Mobile phones solved that, but only on a personal level. The solution here was in the form of Cloud Telephony, and Hyderabad-based Ozonetel is using this technology to evolve products that are making call centre-based communication easy, affordable and with relatively low human intervention.
Essentially, landline phones are connected to be part of a large network - called the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – which is operated by authorised telecom operators.
PSTN was once the only source of communication, not just for households, but also offices. The advent of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which is powered by cloud telephony, promised to change that, and, if implemented, could dent regular PSTN services. It has the power to ease communications for businesses, and business and knowledge processing outsourcing centres with higher quality and efficiency, and of course, bringing down costs significantly.
Cloud telephony can offer the complete package of hardware, which can be automated for certain features like caller identification, and call waiting at a fraction of the cost of a traditional PSTN.
Cloud telephony, though, is not just confined to VoIP, but also caters to PSTN, which is largely employed by a majority of offices in the country. A word of caution here: Voice over Internet Protocol is not legal in India, hence limiting the scope of services that Cloud telephony can offer.
Ozonetel has been instrumental in the cloud telephony space over the last few years, evolving along with the products they offer.
So much so, that the company today is one of the very few that is embedding Artificial Intelligence (AI) for call centres. Ozonetel seeks to make the entirety of business communication seamless, intelligent, cost-efficient, and easily available, and the company claims it is the only such player in the space to own the entire stack.
Chaitanya Chokkareddy, Chief Information Officer (CIO) and co-founder of Ozonetel in conversation with YourStory and he said, "We manufacture our own hardware (PRI cards) so that we can have complete control over the quality we deliver to the clients".
Founded in 2007, the first two years of Ozonetel were all about research and development and building the Cloud platform. Kookoo, its first major product, was delivered in 2009.
Kookoo was essentially about simplifying tasks, and acts as an interface between a web application and a caller. It takes phone commands from the user, and executes them in the form of an interactive voice response with a caller. Kookoo also allows developers to build their own innovative telephony solutions.
"Cloud telephony has made it easier for SMEs and enterprises to set up their contact centre operations. It has allowed startups to protect the privacy of their customers using virtual numbers. It has also allowed businesses to come up with innovative communication means like a missed call, and automated IVRs."
Ozonetel, at present, has a team of over 100 employees, and Chaitanya says the company acquired its first set of customers primarily through cold emailing, and personally reaching out to prospective customers.
The initial set of customers were startups like Zomato, Practo, Zipdial, Bigbasket, Housing.com, Ask Laila, and Proptiger.
Focusing primarily on the Indian market, the company has customers ranging from five agents to 1,000 agents, and launched its services in the US market towards the end of last year. The founder proudly claims Ozonetel's growth has been completely organic, and they have not spent a penny on marketing.
Ozonetel has had 6 billion application programming interface hits, reached out to 50,000 call centre agents, and 100 million people, and clocked 10 million hours of conversation on its platform with 2 million phone numbers.
If those numbers were not enough, the company has added three new channels - chat, e-mail and social media - and sponsored two events. The company has more than 1,000 customers at present, with an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $6 million in SaaS revenue.
While competitors like Exotel and Knowlarity operate with a single product as the core, Ozonetel is the only player with a product and a public API.
Ozonetel was founded with an objective to make business communication easy using cloud technologies. Before they started operations, the founders claim it was tough for businesses to get a simple phone number with a voicemail. With AI now added to their bag, Ozonetel is looking at disrupting how call centres work.
Regardless, there are always challenges along the path, and the main complexity came from integrating with various telecom technologies in the Indian market and making sure the system was up even when the infrastructure was flaky.
"Telephony is a real time system where even one second counts, so we have to make sure that there are no delays in the software," says Chaitanya.
"We have completely reworked our stack. AI and Machine Learning are the core of all our modules now. We will release the new modules one by one, and bring AI into contact centres with facilities like Speech Analytics, and Sentiment Analysis to analyse the moods of customers, Natural Language Processing, and Smart Assistant Widgets."
Chaitanya is hopeful Ozonetel will revolutionise the call centre space with the second version of Kookoo, which is a new bag of excellence, filled with Artificial Intelligence.
Having A/B tested his career with engineering, sales, writing, and product management, Sampath now executes a callback function for a second stint with YourStory. Loves to eat, learn, write, travel, and take photographs. Often spotted consuming lethal doses of Dosa on the main roads of Bangalore. Tweet to him at @sampathptrvu.