[The Turning Point] How this conversational AI startup developed a WhatsApp chatbot to help with COVID resources

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at Verloop.io, which pivoted from connecting brands with customers to helping people connect to essential resources during the pandemic.
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Gaurav Singh and Piyush Mishra started up wanting to solve the problem of retaining and engaging customers to help brands with long-term growth with minimal human intervention. This led them to start Verloop.io in Bengaluru in 2015.

The startup helps B2C brands to automate their conversations with customers and make them highly personalised. Verloop enables custom website widget, and also allows for customer engagement on Facebook MessengerAndroid and iOS app chat, and WhatsApp.

“Verloop’s natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) layers are built using advanced language models, which result in 94.56 percent accuracy. The platform’s messaging layer can handle 100,000 concurrent connections, allowing our clients to grow ambitiously without worrying about scalability of their conversational interface,” Gaurav explains. 

What started with four people in Bengaluru, Verloop is now backed by investors like K Ganesh, Kris Gopalakrishnan, Anand C, Suresh Vaswani, and Jatin Desai.

During the second wave of COVID-19, realising the shortage of oxygen supply, the company decided to use its scale and technology to launch a WhatsApp chatbot in collaboration with KVN Foundation’s Mission Million Air initiative to help connect people who need oxygen with those who have it.

Taking the entrepreneurial plunge

Gaurav, who has previously worked with Tata Consultancy Services and Vizury, first co-founded a company called GoDeliver, a hyperlocal demand delivery platform, in 2015, which was acquired by MagicTiger. 

During this time, Gaurav realised there was a gap in the way brands engage with customers. He felt there was a huge potential for businesses by engaging with customers through messaging.

“We realised that internet penetration in the country was increasing rapidly and that these first-generation users would expect businesses to engage with them on a medium that they were most comfortable with - messaging,” Gaurav had told YourStory earlier.

This lead to the birth of Verloop. Interestingly, Gaurav owned the Verloop domain name not knowing that it will process more than two billion queries, and touch 100 million unique user mark.

Verloop’s journey started with its first client Nykaa, and it now has now over 5,000 clients globally, including Decathlon, Cleartrip, Dar Al Arkan, Fetchr, Livpure, Adani Capital, DSP Mutual Fund, Rentomojo, Scripbox, and many more across India, the US, UAE, and Singapore.

Developing tech to help Covid patients

During the second wave of COVID-19, the company launched a chatbot on WhatsApp, in collaboration with KVN Foundation’s Mission Million Air initiative. The campaign raised Rs 40 lakh donation in which Verloop.io bot-generated 50 plus donor queries from more than seven countries, including from the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. 

The chatbot is available on WhatsApp number +91 8047107750. It has also opened its platform free-of-cost to NGOs and organisations, which are working to provide COVID-care.

The programme is currently active in Bengaluru and Mumbai and is looking to expand to other cities as well. Through this conversational bot, Verloop.io-generated more than 500 oxygen cylinder queries and helped most people get access to what they were looking for.

“India is facing a humanitarian crisis of magnanimous proportions. Now is the time for us to work together in a way to ensure that the needy are served in the best manner possible. We are working towards a method to help provide oxygen concentrators to patients who are unable to receive hospital care. We hope this will reduce the stress on the healthcare systems as we battle the pandemic relentlessly,” says Gaurav. 

Edited by Megha Reddy