India is one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world. Counterpoint Research reveals that the smartphone segment contributed to half of the total handset market during Q3 2018. Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo, and Micromax were the top five brands and they captured 77 percent of the total smartphone market during the quarter.
The smartphone segment is poised to continue growing, but what about after-sales service? The customer service and support industry in India is simply unable to keep up the sheer number of smartphone units being sold.
Further, brands often operate in silos to provide after-sales service, despite smartphones becoming more modular. For the most part, there is a lack of an institution or framework on which customers could receive support irrespective of the brand of smartphone they have.
Identifying this void in the mid 2000s, serial entrepreneur Sreevathsa Prabhakar (40) set out on a journey to provide end-to-end service life cycle management to not only smartphone makers but also other consumer electronics brands.
In 2015, Prabhakar launched Servify, an app-based customer support service channel for consumer electronics. In three years, it has created a complete service life cycle management platform enabling top electronics and smartphone brands, carriers and retailers in device diagnostics with distribution, sales, warranty management, after-sales service, end of life management, and ecommerce capabilities.
Mumbai-headquartered Servify is now an Indian multinational company present in 30 countries. It has become a partner for over 45 top brands, has over 740 million devices on the platform, and is supported by over 6,000 service partners in the network. It is expecting operational profitability in the next two quarters, and is targeting to exit 2018-19 with a run rate of Rs 10 crore a month by March 2019.
“When I set out to build Servify, I knew I was on an uphill battle. The after-sales service and support industry was almost broken. Processes and people operated in silos more than they should. Brands were spending more money to keep the customer happy,” says Sreevathsa Prabhakar, Founder, Servify.
“In the midst of all of this, the one who suffered was the customer. Very few brands really got it right. And this was a mindset that was set in stone. I knew I had to change this and do it with simplicity that our customers would love and consider us the ‘go-to’ platform during the life cycle of an electronic device,” he adds.
In an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, Sreevathsa Prabhakar, Founder, Servify, reveals how the business is tapping into after-sales service markets.
SMBStory: What were you doing before you started Servify?
Sreevathsa Prabhakar: I am a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the field of customer experience, technology and management. I used to work in Nokia, Tata Teleservices, Samsung and BPL Limited before becoming an entrepreneur in 2009.
My first venture was the fully-bootstrapped The Service Solutions, which delivered my brand of technology-driven customer service. In 2014, it was acquired by German major B2X. This was when I decided to start Servify.
SMBS: How big is the after-sales service market and how is Servify different from competitors?
SP: As per our study, there are close to 2.4 billion devices such as electronics, smartphones and appliances in Indian homes, all in different stage of their life cycle. Typically, brands spend almost two-thirds of what they spend on marketing on after-sales service. This is approximately $4 billion in India alone, and globally it is over $ 40 billion.
However, this spend is focussed towards performing transactions rather than delivering experience. This is because most brands consider service as an obligation rather than an opportunity to build life-long engagement. To that effect, our business model is quite unique. We understood the customer pain points angled towards standardisation, transparency, credibility, and real time feedback.
Hence, we saw the need to use technology in bringing multiple players in the ecosystem together under one roof. This way, we meet supply and demand, and eliminate inefficiencies. This way, Servify is ushering in predictable and delightful customer experiences as well as fostering brand loyalty.
SMBS: How did Servify diversify into so many categories?
SP: While in the business of decoding the after-sales service spectrum, we realised that millenials, in particular, were constantly on the lookout for fast, convenient and reliable solutions. For them, low prices could not be a tradeoff for bad experiences.
Most customers today are channel-agnostic. They usually prefer that support or assistance is always available at their fingertips and throughout the usage life cycle of a product, and not just during a breakdown incident. Thus, creatively applying the right technology at the right time to build greater customer engagement, we at Servify have successfully diversified into almost all consumer devices.
SMBS: What are some of the major partnerships Servify has formed?
SP: Our key milestones are partnerships with several top brands and having over 740 million devices on our platform. Servify’s partnerships include almost every top brand within a category. For instance, our smartphone partners are Apple, OnePlus, and Xiaomi, home appliances partners are Godrej and Panasonic, and our telecom partners are Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Airtel.
Similarly, our offline retail partners are Croma, Sangeetha Mobile and Reliance Digital, our ecommerce partners are Amazon and Paytm Mall, distribution partners are Ingram, Redington and HCL, and our insurance partners are Acko, AmTrust, and HDFC Ergo. We are also the first to create an innovative recycling program for iPhones in India, as we believed in doing our bit for the society we live in.
SMBS: How did Servify raise investment for such an ambitious project?
SP: Our business is not mainstream. But we build trust and generate money. Our ability to create an ecosystem in our sector is significant. Our relationships with the brands, market reputation and the ability to scale this profitably and globally led our investors to trust in our vision.
So far, we have raised funds from three rounds of investments. Iron Pillar led our most recent one worth $15 million. Blume Ventures and Beenext are our existing partners from whom we raised an undisclosed amount in 2016.
SMBS: What are your challenges in sustaining and growing the business?
SP: It’s a tough task as we are trying to organise a hugely unorganised ecosystem by using a customer-first approach. Our business is complex and operationally intense. But at the same time, we are largely asset light.
That means we need to be on top of every aspect of our business to ensure a consistent experience for our customers. Thus, we ensure that business processes and learnings are incorporated back into our technology platform to ensure predictability. We feel we are well poised for significant growth as we are still young.
SMBS: What are your plans for the future?
SP: This is one sector that didn’t see much traction as the business opportunity is not mainstream. We would love to see more entrepreneurs entering this space to get some visibility, both in terms of standardisation and investments, as there are virtually no benchmarks on the size of opportunity or key deliverables.
In such a market, we want to grow this business worldwide and become a force to be reckoned with. We want to become the go-to player for any new brand that wants to standardise and automate their after-sales service and engagement.