'50pc of enterprises will spend more on chatbots compared to mobile apps by 2021,' says Gupshup CEO Beerud Sheth

14th Mar 2018
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In a chat with YourStory, Beerud Sheth, Co-founder and CEO of Gupshup, talks about how chatbots are disrupting the way Indians communicate with brands. 

Even as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) gain notoriety for their looming threat to take away human jobs, it bears to keep in mind that we would be better off without the kind of jobs that we let them take over.

Take chatbots, for example. What better way to have machines take over answering mundane questions regarding customer queries. And, hopefully, saving human customer-care operators from loads of stress and anxiety!

Chatbots and smart messaging

There’s more to be said about this technology, which is capable of using tons of data that it gathers from the queries of customers and converts into intelligent outcomes for companies. Thereby not only making customer care departments actually care, but also help companies scale and make their processes more efficient.

According to the Bot Services Market – Global Forecast to 2022 report by research firm Market and Markets, the bot services market is projected to reach $1,783.9 million globally by 2022. And among the global tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, Indian firm Gupshup will dominate the chatbot industry that has the potential to drive global businesses, the report states.

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Gupshup, a bot and messaging platform, enables developers to build, test, deploy, and manage chatbots quickly across all messaging channels. It handles over four billion messages per month and over 150 billion cumulative.

Gupshup’s platform is used by 30,000 businesses and leading companies like Flipkart, Ola, Twitter, HDFC, ICICI etc. Sensing the market shift from SMS to chat platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram etc., it advanced to bots by launching gupshup.io in 2016.

Having built bots for brands like Sage, Cisco, Titan, Yes Bank, and Motilal Oswal, Gupshup.io recently partnered with Google to enable enterprises to quickly and easily build for ‘Actions on Google’, Google’s development interface for the Google Assistant. The firm also pioneered the Interbot, world's first bot-to-bot communication platform.

Gupshup is funded by investors that include Charles River Ventures, Helion Venture Partners, and Globespan Capital Partners, and has a funding close to $50 million. The company has an annual revenue upwards of Rs 300 crore.

In a chat with YourStory, Beerud Sheth, Co-founder and CEO of Gupshup, talks about how chatbots are disrupting how Indians communicate with brands. He points out that in India, banking and financial firms are among the first movers in using bots, while travel and fashion industries have the potential for largescale adoption.

Beerud was also the founder of Elance, world's largest online services marketplace, a pioneer in the gig economy space. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, he was involved in developing autonomous learning software agents for personalised news filtering. He is also a holder of two technology patents.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

YourStory: What have been the global advancements in the bots industry?

Beerud Sheth: Surveys state that more than 50 percent of enterprises will spend more on chatbots as compared to the traditional mobile app development by 2021. The industry is working on use cases across different verticals and business functions. Technology giants are investing heavily into chatbot supporting avenues like AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) etc.

YS: What are the opportunities for developers in the bots industry in India?

BS: A lot of businesses are rapidly adopting bots in India and globally. Most of the times server-side development costs less than client-side development. Therefore, building bots will cost less than building an app with comparable capabilities, thereby providing huge opportunities for developers.

YS: How do you see WhatsApp for Business in the context of business to customer interactions?

BS: Businesses have to find multiple ways of communicating with their customers. A lot of complexity comes in unlike, say, an SMS message. You cannot spam on WhatsApp; customers have to opt-in. We are building a sophisticated smart messaging platform. When you book a cab or order a package, all communication happens through our tech platform. Indian consumers are mobile-first and messaging-first, thus messaging is more effective for companies. Instead of going to retail or calling the customer care, they would love to do it through messaging, even more than voice calling (there’s the hassle of being kept on hold infinitely).

Earlier, you could not do much with just an SMS message, since you cannot reply to the message that the company sends. You could not reschedule a delivery; it was a dumb message. Now you can interact with it, you can reserve the offer, say, for a discount, or report a fraud.

YS: What is the scope of chatbots in India across various verticals like BFSI, fashion, HR etc.?

BS: Bots are the best way for businesses to engage customers in any industry. Almost every sector, including BFSI, HR, fashion, have started adopting chatbots. Recently, the Aditya Birla Group launched its chatbot built by us for its fashion brand LIVA, to showcase latest trends and assist buyers in exploring their range. 

YS: Are chatbots re-incarnations of websites and apps?

BS: Yes. They're more natural, intuitive, and easy to use compared to structured interfaces like websites and apps.

YS: What is the future path of Gupshup?

BS: Enable bots for every business worldwide.

YS: As someone who has lived and worked in Silicon Valley, how do you see the Indian startup landscape in comparison?

BS: The Valley ecosystem is definitely more mature. The Indian startup space is still patchy. E-commerce has taken root, but what is the next big thing? I’ve lived in India when I was starting Gupshup and observed that founders still go with the trend. It is hard to convince someone with an original idea, especially when there is no copycat model to follow. I have invested in a few startups in India myself, including enterprise chatbox Quickwork.

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