Around 16 months ago in August 2018, Swapan and I had a long chat about the future of Haptik, in turn discussing what we want to do with our lives. The previous year had been tough on many grounds – but most fundamentally we had pivoted from being a consumer app to a B2B enterprise software company. We were still very early in that business, one which required a lot of time to get it right. We were confident about the market opportunity and timing, but just not certain of how to get there.
We had started out in 2013 with the belief that conversational interfaces will be the next paradigm shift in human-computer interaction. As a direct to consumer personal assistant service, we had built a product that was liked by millions. However, it was not loved – the “assistant” was only good at basic tasks such as setting reminders or knowing what’s nearby. It was a vitamin – not a painkiller. The idea of being able to just “chat” and get something done was powerful, but people wanted it to do a lot more. After having raised close to $13 million and investing 4 years into that product, we realized it was not working.
It was tough to swallow that reality, and more than anything else, to maintain confidence in our ability to build anything meaningful. However, the belief that conversational AI will have a place in this world continued to be strong. It just required a different application – which was the ability to connect consumers with businesses to solve their most pressing queries around customer support, troubleshooting, FAQs, product information, etc. That’s when in 2017 we pivoted to become an Enterprise SaaS product for businesses to implement conversational applications to improve their overall end customer experience.
The rest, as they say, is history. 2019 has been a breakout year for the company – a year that has given us new people, new partners, new products and a renewed sense of purpose.
First, why Conversational AI?
Messaging accounts for a low volume of customer interactions under conventional customer outreach strategies, with phone calls accounting for the maximum volume. This approach has not served enterprises well, and ultimately contributes to a poor customer experience delivered at a very high cost. Decade old problems continue to remain unsolved while customers are interacting with businesses.
With Conversational Assistants, brands can effectively ‘flip’ the pyramid – using chat as their primary outreach channel. The rebalanced volumes dramatically lower the overall cost of customer interactions, while significantly enhancing the customer experience.
Intelligent Virtual Assistant: The New Face of Conversational AI
A lot of people use the terms ‘chatbots’ and ‘virtual assistants’ interchangeably. But the truth is that an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) is a far more advanced conversational application. Leveraging the power of advanced Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing technologies, an IVA is more than just a chatbot and voice bot – it engages customers in a conversation, pinpoints their intent, and executes the tasks required to resolve their issues end-to-end.
The Haptik IVA Platform
Haptik’s IVA solutions have been built from the ground-up to address specific business problems and deliver ROI across two key functions – Sales and Customer Care.
Our Sales solutions drive ROI by helping brands boost revenue. Conversational Commerce enables better product discovery through a recommendation engine to drive transactions via digital channels; while the Lead Generation IVA is a 24/7 virtual sales agent that helps generate warm leads by engaging website visitors.
Our Customer Care solutions drive ROI by helping brands significantly reduce customer support costs. With Live Chat & Messaging, the AI engine can resolve 70-80% of queries (which are routine, repetitive queries or FAQs), while seamlessly routing more complex queries to a human agent. Conversational IVR is a voice assistant to handle inbound support queries on a brand’s main support line, deflecting calls from contact center agents.
The Haptik Business: Key Metrics
- 200%+ revenue growth year on year for the last 2 years
- 0 Customer Churn (no customer has ever stopped using the Haptik platform once they go live)
- 5 Global Fortune 500 Brands
- 150+ live implementations
- 50 million conversations handled annually
Haptik + Reliance Industries
In April this year, Haptik entered a strategic partnership with Reliance Industries. The backing from Reliance enables us to have a long-term focus, and gives us the support and resources required to implement our Intelligent Virtual Assistant solutions at scale.
Reliance wears multiple hats in its partnership with Haptik:
- As an investor, they are aligned to the long term success of Haptik as an independent B2B enterprise software business.
- As Haptik’s largest customer, we enable solutions for customer care and conversational commerce across the Reliance Group to drive ROI for their businesses.
- As a strategic partner, we work with them to co-develop new products and business lines that can be beneficial to the ecosystem at large.
This structure allows us to operate with the agility of a startup, and the resources of an institution. It’s been about 9 months since we came together, and the partnership couldn’t have started out better than it has. We continue to learn a ton from the scale and ambition they have, and look forward to some exciting developments in the years to come.
The Haptik Family
Haptik certainly wouldn’t be one of the world’s largest Conversational AI companies without the humans behind the machine!
Much like our technology (and our revenues!), the Haptik family has only grown exponentially in 2019, going from 75 people at the start of the year to 180 today. We started the year with one office in Mumbai, and end the year with 7 locations across India and the United States.
Our expansion this year has been driven to a large extent by two major additions to the company.
In July, Haptik brought on board the founding team of Los Angeles-based Conversational AI startup Convrg, to drive our growth in the North American market. Convrg’s co-founders, Liz Snower, Audrey Wu, and Amit Gupta have been the brains behind many of the industry’s most successful chatbots and are widely regarded as pioneers in the space. Earlier in the year, they had built a chatbot powering the most engaging Reddit advertisement of all time.
In September, Haptik acquired Mumbai-based conversational commerce startup Buzzo.ai. Established in 2016 by serial entrepreneurs Anand Ramachandran and Vivek Arya, Buzzo.ai enables an AI assistant which can understand a customer’s requirements by naturally conversing with them, and making relevant recommendations – essentially simulating the behavior of an in-store sales assistant. With Anand, Vivek and the rest of their team on board, Haptik is now well-equipped to rise to the challenge of addressing the $80 billion voice commerce market.
A few Cultural Highlights:
- 50% of all new employees who joined this year are women
- 6 people re-joined Haptik for a second stint
- 5 new leaders joined across various functions
- 20 ex-founders
- 2 published authors
- 1 improv comedian 🙂
2020 and Beyond
A few weeks back, Haptik was featured as one of the Top 16 solution providers for Enterprise Intelligent Assistants by Opus Research as part of their year ending 2019 report. Here is why this a big deal:
- Opus has been a global thought leader in the conversational AI space for more than 20 years
- Haptik is the only company from India to be featured in this report; in fact the only one outside of North America and Europe
- We are featured alongside the gold standard in the industry such as Nuance, IBM Watson, IPSoft, Genesys, Salesforce, etc.
- Our evaluation of technology and vision was voted as the best in class
Besides the growth in revenue and customers, this was a huge validation of the Haptik IVA product along with its capabilities to serve enterprises at the global level. In 2020, besides our existing business in the US and India we will also be starting operations in South East Asia, Middle East and Europe.
As the year comes to a close, there is just one thought that comes to my mind. It is a quote from the movie “The Founder”, which was about how a 52 year old milkshake salesman set up the largest fast food corporation of our time, McDonald’s.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of good old persistence. Talent won’t. Nothing’s more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won’t. Unrecognized genius is practically a cliche. Education won’t. Why the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all powerful.”
Thank you to all those who have been a constant support and guiding light. Here’s to 2020!
This report was penned by Aakrit Vaish, Co-Founder & CEO of Haptik