Why these IIT Madras alumni decided to tap the D2C enablement segment with BusinessOnBot

Businessonbot is a one-stop solution for D2C brands to run their business on WhatsApp. The startup, which has raised $1.3 million in pre-Series A funding, offers sales, marketing, and user acquisition and retention tools on WhatsApp.

Mohit Kumar, Aditya Chintapalli, and Kirushanth Kumar, friends and  IIT Madras batchmates, realised amid the COVID-19 pandemic that two things had seen a significant upswing: the growth of D2C brands and the surge in social commerce, especially on WhatsApp. 

This led the trio to found San Francisco-headquartered BusinessOnBot in 2020. The SaaS platform enables D2C businesses to create a loyal user base from scratch through its sales, user acquisition, and retention tools on WhatsApp. Along with the creation of WhatsApp stores and vernacular language support, the platform acts as a one-stop solution for SMBs and brands to boost sales and user acquisition on WhatsApp. 

“We spent time talking with owners and founders of D2C businesses for months to understand pain points, and where we can add value,” Mohit says. 

One of the initial challenges the founders faced was bringing in the revenue generation angle for D2C businesses on WhatsApp rather than just customer support. 


"We were able to overcome this initial challenge with the help of in-house commerce AI and proprietary marketing automation to automate WhatsApp stores with Indian language support.  It took us a year to understand the market for D2C businesses and build a product around it while training commerce AI in vernacular languages,” Mohit says. 

Mohit and Kirushanth were previously product managers at Kotak Mahindra Bank, while Aditya was the Data Scientist at CommerceIQ. 

The SaaS startup now helps D2C businesses set up a WhatsApp business account for free, build vernacular voice and text-based commerce bots, re-engage customers, enable order tracking and live chat, and enable outreach to end-users. 

“Businesses have seen 30 percent growth in user acquisition and interaction within the first two months of integration,” Mohit says.  

The team is now working with over 100 brands pan India. 

Mohit explains WhatsApp has become the intuitive option for businesses, but what differentiates BusinessOnBot is that “we are solving the problem of discoverability, sales, and retention in a single partnership for businesses through WhatsApp”. 

“Indian language support makes it easy for D2C businesses to scale users even in regional parts of India through WhatsApp. With WhatsApp focusing on payments and catalogues in its recently released beta features, we can see that WhatsApp will soon become a ‘WeChat for India’,” Mohit says. “BusinessOnBot is similar to some of the WeChat SaaS companies like Youzan (valued at $50 billion) in China.” 

Funding and the future

BusinessOnBot’s client list includes Specmakers, Alpino, TBOF, TAC, Auric, Teabox, and others. 

The startup follows a subscription-based model, refusing to divulge usage fees at present. It has a certain percent margin on monthly SaaS fees; the remaining is directed towards server fees and operational costs. Apart from monthly SaaS fees, it also charges usage fees as per WhatsApp message volumes. 

According to several media reports, India is home to over 63 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), many of whom had to pivot to new business models to survive the coronavirus pandemic. 

At present, the SaaS startup competes with the likes of Shopify, which helps small merchants start, run, market, and grow their business, and powers over one million businesses in 175 countries. Other similar startups include Baaz, which is focused on helping companies with their video commerce platforms. 

BusinessOnBot has raised $1.3 million in a pre-Series A round from Y Combinator, the founders of Dr Vaidya’s, Relentless Ventures, Qua Capital, Smart Invest, Dholakia Ventures, and a few marquee angel investors.

The marquee angel investors are experienced founders/CXOs/directors from renowned companies like WhatsApp, OYO, Netflix, Pepsico, Cleartax, Glowroad etc. Innoven Capital partner Ashish Sharma, Point One Capital general partner Archana Priyadarshini, ex-KKR director Ajay Candade and Slideshare co-founder Amit Ranjan are some of the prominent names who have backed BusinessOnBot.

Commenting on this association, Arjun Vaidya, founder of Dr. Vaidyas and Venture Lead at Verlinvest said, “As the D2C ecosystem evolves, enablers become very important. Really excited to see what the BusinessOnBot team is building to provide a seamless, hassle free customer experience and I’m proud to support them on this journey!”

In the first half of 2021, BusinessOnBot grew 145 percent month on month in MRR. The company is targeting the massive $6 billion market opportunity presented by D2C businesses in India. Its current clientele of D2C businesses spans various sectors such as food and beverage, apparel and fashion, health and wellness, consumer goods and jewellery.

On the startup’s plans for the future, Mohit says, “We have plans to focus on international expansion in markets like LATAM and Indonesia where WhatsApp has a large user base. We plan to use the funds for R&D and hiring for key roles in technology and marketing.”

Edited by Teja Lele Desai


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