AI-driven digital concierge startup wants to make your hotel stay more comfortableVishal Krishna
VenueLytics uses patent-pending tech to provide an integrated customer experience and venue management platform for the hospitality and entertainment industries.
Ever stayed at a hotel and suffered “broken experiences”? Every business executive or traveller has. The need to seek human intervention for everything – be it fixing the internet, ordering food, asking for specials, or knowing the location – and waiting for the person on the reception desk to get back can be taxing. But what if there could be a cloud-based service that enhances customer experience? VenueLytics is doing just that.
VenueLytics, an Indian startup headquartered in the Bay Area, offers an integrated customer experience and venue management platform with AI-based automation and deep learning technology for the hospitality and entertainment industries.
The startup was founded by Baskar Manivanan, 45, and Surya Mangipudi, 42, in August 2016. The duo, who had worked together in SAP and knew each other for 15 years, and had more than two decades of experience and expertise in analytics and BI.
Baskar co-founded Clyptech, along with Surya, a software company, in 2013, and sold it in 2016 for an undisclosed sum to a company (FishBowl) now part of Symphony Technologies. By August 2016, he was raring to go again. Baskar teamed up with Surya to solve the problem hotels across the world face as they try to move away from legacy customer service at the point of contact with the customer.
“There are millions of mid-sized and smaller hotels and restaurants that want a seamless customer experience and are yet to figure out how to use tech to do it,” Baskar says.
He says that an “almost chatbot-like experience” is necessary to make the venue come to life by using voice and text-based interfaces.
Companies like Torchifi and Wysh are doing this in the US. But being data experts, Baskar and Surya have built 100 different attributes to their AI engine and are providing them with strong competition. The VenueLytics co-founders have also filed patents for their recommendation engine.
How does VenueLytics work?
The workflow could be as simple as checking in with an SMS; it could also be a voice interface to order and know more about the hotel. The hotel's app, powered by VenueLytics, can let you use SMS to find your way around the hotel via a web link. So essentially the phone becomes the concierge, freeing up the hotel to focus on the service side. The Wifi becomes the de facto guest tracker and service agent; the service lets the customer request not to be disturbed, order food, or even get the room cleaned.
“Algorithms are already the future, and workflows are becoming automated. The important thing is that user behaviour is captured, helping hotels serve their guests faster and better. You don't need wired phones in the hotels,” Baskar says.
This solution can plug into any IoT framework like Amazon and Google, and can also be built into third-party devices. The system reduces the cost of labour and allows loyalty programmes to be stronger and integrated. Baskar and Surya like to call their service reputation, or concierge, management.
What is the company's business model? VenueLytics charges a monthly subscription based on the size of the venue and the number of transactions. Rates are available on request.
The startup presently has two chains paying for their services. Baskar and Surya don't want to reveal revenues as yet but say they are on “well on course” to being a large company because of the robustness of the reputation management and concierge engine.
But the 10-member team has been clear about being paid from day one of customer implementation. They believe they have to be paid for any business outcome generated; the business outcome here is increasing automated services and bringing down costs.
VenueLytics has raised $150,000 from a set of angel investors; Baskar has also put in some money.
Raju Indukuri, Co-founder of FalconX, an accelerator and angel investment company, says: “The company has the ability to scale up fast because we believe that the founders offer strong technology that can solve the hospitality industry’s need to engage with customers and know them on a personalised basis.”
VenueLytics’ tech is built on Java. “Getting to know attributes of people and their behaviour in situations requires the tech to be trained. It’s not a simple task when you get into the details,” Baskar says.
The future is AI
The global business value derived from artificial intelligence (AI) is projected to total $1.2 trillion in 2018, an increase of 70 percent from 2017, according to Gartner, Inc. AI-derived business value is forecast to reach $3.9 trillion in 2022.
There are three different sources of AI business value: customer experience, new revenue, and cost reduction.
John-David Lovelock, Research Vice President at Gartner, says: “AI promises to be the most disruptive class of technologies during the next 10 years due to advances in computational power; volume, velocity, and variety of data, and advances in deep neural networks (DNNs).”
"One of the biggest aggregate sources for AI-enhanced products and services acquired by enterprises between 2017 and 2022 will be niche solutions that address one need very well. Business executives will drive investment in these products, sourced from thousands of narrowly focused, specialist suppliers with specific AI-enhanced applications,” he says.
Going by this forecast, Baskar and Surya are well on their way to building a tech company of the future, for the future.