How Vani.coach helps corporate employees communicate better

Upskilling startup Vani.coach, which launched its app in 2020, has seen its user base grow exponentially in the recent months.
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The COVID-19 pandemic and the adoption of digital tools changed the way businesses scale. For Pune-headquartered Vyakta Consulting Services, which started out as an upskilling business in 2008 for corporate employees, the introduction of its app has helped it expand its outreach. 

Introduction of its digital coaching product, Vani.coach, has enabled Vyakta increase its coach base from 12 to nearly 200 and has seen the number of clients go up to 41 since August 2021 including the likes of Cipla, Kotak and Indian Oil.

“From 2008 to 2020 we were a small boutique service firm and worked with enterprises such as L&T, PwC, Deloitte, Asian Paints, ITC among others, offering their employees communication fitness program as we differentiate ourselves from a regular course,” Ashish Jha, Co-Founder and CEO of Vyakta and Vani.coach, tells YourStory.

Vyakta had been recording voice clips of their trainees before and after completing the module from day one. 

“Instead of just bringing a coach and a learner together on the app, we wanted to productise coaching and see if we can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help with instant feedback,” says Ashish. 

By 2020, the company started training its AI engine with the available data and added practice modules, and came out with its app. Today Vani.coach sees 85 percent of the training being done on its app-based module, while the remaining 15 percent depends on the coach.

Solving for upskilling

After being a journalist with The Indian Express for some time, Ashish started working with unemployed youth to provide them with the skills necessary to land jobs in the financial services sector and BPOs. That is when the idea of Vyakta took shape. 

“The inability to communicate effectively based on the position and sector has been a challenge across industries. We started our early pilot with L&T which was looking to create a global brand from India. Instead of their engineers, they often had to send managers to meetings as the engineers were unable to articulate their own work,” says Ashish. 

He adds that pharma companies had a similar problem with medical representatives who would get less time with the doctors as compared to representatives from big pharmaceutical companies.

“There is a direct correlation between how people communicate versus different business outcomes,” he says.

The company would previously deliver its courses partially in-person and partially online with its 12 coaches. A learner who has been selected by their company for training is initiated into the module by the coach, with practice and personalisation being handled on the app.

Over the last five months, along with the launch of the app, Vani.coach has managed to train and onboard 200 coaches on its platform. These coaches work in a consulting role with the platform, after training of two months spread across 75 hours of classroom sessions and 150 hours of self-work.

“We are building a gig workforce of our own and right now, 350 coaches are currently undergoing training. We do not charge the coaches for training,” says Ashish.

Using AI for a better experience

The company also started using AI in 2020 to parse through data to model its app. However, the approach to learning continues to be coach-led.

“We are still at 41 percent accuracy with our AI engine so it can’t read a practice test and give feedback. But the AI engine helps us by personalising the playbook for the learner, based on sector, level of proficiency and the role they are in. It also picks out the content most relevant to the learner, based on their role,” Ashish says.

The personalisation is later reviewed by a coach before being implemented.

With a mix of coach and digital training, Vani.coach has been able to cut down the number of hours spent by the coach on a learner from 10 hours to one and half hours per month. The platform charges the company for the training once a manager validates the improvement in a learner. 

“In most learning apps, you see the engagement fall by the end, whereas in our case, by 21 days we see the engagement peaking. We realised that hearing the improvements in the way they communicate, learners are incentivised to spend more time on the app. The average time spent by a user on our app is close to 25 minutes,” says Ashish.

Revenue and business model

With the fast-paced growth, Vani.coach expects to scale up to 65 clients by end of the current financial year 2021-22 and clock in Annual Recurring Revenue of $15 million by March 2023. 

The startup works on a business-to-business model, with companies paying the platform to upskill their employees. Interested employees can also opt to continue their course beyond four months.

“The average cost per user comes up to $120 on an average and we are signing on companies where the annual contracts are close to $50,000,” said Ashish. He added that the startup continues to spend on training coaches, fine-tuning its app, building its sales team and go-to-market channels. 

Startup Snapshot: Vani.coach

Vani.coach raised $200,000 in an angel round in December 2021. 

Going ahead, Vani.coach plans on expanding its offerings to different markets and categories. The company is also considering opening up its services through a business-to-consumer model over time.

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