How Exotel’s Cloud Telephony Platform Powered A Billion Conversations in 6 Years

Founded in 2011, Exotel works with companies like Uber, Ola, Swiggy & Quickr to deliver cloud-based customer communication over calls and SMS. Today, backed by Blume Ventures & Mumbai Angels, it connects over 4 million conversations every day

Shivakumar Ganesan with Co-Founders Ishwar Sridharan & Siddharth Ramesh

By now most people have an idea of what cloud communication is. It is an Internet-based voice and data communication platform where switching and storage of telecommunication applications are hosted by a third party. Exotel, the Bengaluru-based cloud telephony platform, does just this for close to 2,000 businesses in India and Southeast Asia, enabling them to bring efficiency and agility to customer communication.

There’s a good chance you’ve used Exotel’s technology in your daily lives. Ever contacted your Uber driver after the trip ended (because you forgot something in the car)? Received a food order update SMS, real-time? It’s all happening through Exotel. Commenting on this, its co-founder and CEO, Shivakumar Ganesan says, “We play a big part in safeguarding customer privacy with cab aggregators. We work with ecommerce and delivery companies to help standardize their operating procedures. For marketplaces, we connect the buyer and seller and help the platforms monetize and keep customer communication efficient.”

One size doesn’t fit all

Companies use Exotel’s API to build solutions that work best for their business. “After all, software has no one size fits all. Using our APIs, which is a plug and play system when it comes to setting up, companies build solutions that solve their communication problems in the best way possible,” says Ganesan, an alumnus of BITS – Pilani. In other words, companies can now build exactly what they want, without having to use a pre-built software that doesn’t completely solve the problem that is unique to their business.

In 2012, the cloud telephony platform netted INR 2.4 crore in seed funding from Blume Ventures and Mumbai Angels. Its clients, such as Uber, Ola, Flipkart, Quikr and Swiggy use Exotel to manage their customer communication over calls & SMS, and in the process enable smoother communication between all stakeholders. For example, Swiggy, the food ordering and delivery app, uses Exotel to remind restaurants about new orders as they come in. Automated calls help save on manual calls to restaurants and in the process reduce delivery delays.


After all, software has no one size fits all. Using our APIs, which is a plug and play system when it comes to setting up, companies build solutions that solve their communication problems in the best way possible


Early Learnings and the Pivot

When Exotel started out in 2011, it worked with a lot of emerging startups and it was through customer feedback and the innovative ways in which some of these companies were using it, that it evolved as a product. Ganesan shares, “When we started building Exotel, we envisioned it as a way to run a distributed call center for Roopit, a C2C marketplace where buyers and sellers could connect with each other over calls, SMS or an online platform.” At that time, he spoke to a few entrepreneurs who were also looking for a similar solutions to manage their own customer communication. “They wanted to try out the solution I had developed and that’s how the pivot from Roopit to Exotel happened in 2011,” he recalls. That was when Exotel was conceptualized. “Enabling multiple people to call or send SMS using a distributed call center was the initial idea. The market opportunity seemed untapped and quite large at the time, and my progression to Exotel seemed imminent”, explains Ganesan.

Staying Relevant in Changing Times

“Over the years, our customers helped us identify the potential of what we were building. Some of our best usages like safeguarding customer privacy and helping marketplaces monetize came as feedback from our customers. They gave us the direction for growth,” shares the 34-year-old CEO.

Apart from customers being their biggest advocates, the founding team pays a lot of emphasis on its employees too. Exotel currently runs with a team of 88 employees. While one of its biggest challenges has been in hiring the right people, Ganesan notes that, “A product or a company can only be as good as the people in your team. Running a growing a company means ensuring that you hire only the best people as you grow, and keep your culture intact.”

In this ever-evolving technological marketplace, it is paramount to help growing companies remain relevant to changing customer expectations. “Our aim is to help businesses gain efficiency and move enterprise customer communication to the cloud to ensure scalability and ease of use,” he states.  Driven by digital transformation, the cloud – a highly scalable and agile platform – has seen immense change in just a few years. So it comes as no surprise when we see businesses around us adopting it in order to remain competitive and relevant.

Back in 2015, Exotel acquired Voyce, a customer feedback platform, and Croak.it, a Singapore based company that allows users to share their voice messages in clips of up to 30 seconds. These acquisitions helped Exotel add various features to its range of offerings, in the process enabling its clients to deliver new customer experiences.

In company of the cloud

The need for automation and agility, which is key for business models, has driven cloud communications to where it is today. And while many companies see the benefit of moving specific portions of workload to the cloud, which helps customer service representatives spend more time finding solutions based on the latest information, the question of what differentiates such services does arise. With the recent announcement of Mumbai-based messaging solution and mobile engagement company, Karix Mobile, launching its cloud communications platform, companies like Exotel will have to keep in mind the value creation and return on investment for companies (which are focused on high growth strategies) partnering with them.

Ganesan explains the need for customization as an important aspect in order to stay ahead in a competitive ecosystem, “Enterprise communication is thought of as a very complicated setup. Our aim is to make it simple and give companies the freedom to customize communication their way. Taking care of all infrastructures, scaling, and the communication systems is what we’re focused on so that businesses concentrate on their core business.”

Currently, Exotel connects over 4 million conversations every day. “We work with some of the most rapidly growing businesses in South East Asia and this number will keep growing as our customers continue to scale”, added Ganesan. In terms of their future growth strategy Ganesan shares, “While we are already present in South East Asia, our goal is to expand to markets where customer communication works in a similar manner to India. Markets like India, South East Asia, Middle East and Africa have similar user behaviour. Voice is still the dominant mode of communication in these markets and these are the markets that give us the maximum opportunity to grow. We will continue to invest in product development and R&D. We are currently profitable and are not actively looking to raise funds.”


Snapshot  

Exotel

Founders: Shivakumar Ganesan, Ishwar Sridharan, Siddharth Ramesh

Year: 2011

City: Bengaluru

Investors: Blume Ventures & Mumbai Angels


Company profile

Incorporated in 2011, Exotel is a cloud telephony platform that works with enterprises and fast growing businesses to deliver excellent customer communication over calls & SMS. Being a tech-first and customer-first company, it takes care of all the messy telephony hardware so that clients can focus on their core business. The result is a convenient cloud-based solution that simplifies telephonic interaction with customers. So far, Exotel has connected over 85 million people in India and powered over a billion conversations in 2017.