While the debate about the future of chatbots remains speculative, Times Internet-funded Haptik is confident that whether it becomes a niche feature or a paradigm shift, the technology is here to stay. With some of the largest global companies on board as customers, Haptik is taking giant strides in capitalising on this space, by offering chatbot solutions to publishers, advertisers and enterprises, and B2C customers.
The Haptik platform was born out of the realisation that chat is the most native interface for smartphones in the 21st century, and it should do a lot more than just enable communication among friends. “It’s possible to do more on these interfaces; like an ecommerce transaction, customer service or just information exchange,” shares Aakrit Vaish. Hence, in 2013, Vaish, along with his co-founder Swapan Rajdev, set up this chatbot platform to build applications for publishers, enterprises and advertisers.
While the founders initially set up the company with their own funds, they raised US $1 million from Kalaari Capital and other angel investors in August 2014. Eventually, in April 2016, Times Internet led a Series B round of investment worth over US $10 million. The company used this capital towards investing in technology, business operations and marketing.
Growing its revenues at almost 20 per cent month-on-month, Haptik now has over 50 clients across various business sectors. “We believe that we are ahead of the game, since we were the first ones to look at the opportunity and build this technology in India,” shares Vaish.
The Modus Operandi
Haptik has been at the forefront of the paradigm shift from apps to chatbots, having worked across various chatbot use cases such as e-commerce, customer service, utility and lead generation. It has an underlying technology platform that allows the users to manage and build a chatbot. “On top of this, we have different products and solutions that cater to different business lines,” says Vaish, and adds, “We bundle all the services and put them inside other apps.”
The company’s solutions cater to three categories of customers – publishers, advertisers and enterprises. Its publisher solution is a Software Development Kit which can be integrated by any app to enable utility and transactions’ chatbots. Haptik’s customers leverage this solution to increase their app engagement and enhance monetization opportunities. The advertisers solution enables advertisers to engage users on Haptik’s publisher network through chatbots. The third product, Haptik’s enterprise tool kit facilitates businesses in deploying chatbots to automate customer support across their website, Facebook messenger or mobile apps. In fact, there’s another use case of the Haptik app; one for consumers wherein it acts as a 24X7 chat-based personal assistant to help users get things done. One can set reminders, book a cab or flight tickets, recharge phones, pay utility bills or find places in their vicinity, all through the one-stop app.
Today, although people understand chatbots and its value, the challenge lies in predicting how much people want chatbots and how large it will become. Will it become a paradigm shift like how smartphones did or will it become a niche feature? A large part of my time is spent on evangelising and educating the industry
Growing the BOT
“When you are building a company on first principles, you are bound to face challenges that you never expected. You run into unknown things and there is no other comparison or replica of this to refer to,” shares Vaish. He admits that many things have changed since the time the company was incorporated, but the team has remained very clear about their vision – chat is going to be everywhere and Haptik is going to build services on top of it. “This has been the only constant. The products and solutions we built have evolved and changed a lot. First, it was only for customer service, then, transactions and now, we offer solutions for advertisers,” shares the CEO.
As far as technology goes, Vaish opines that it starts from getting the best people to build it. While it uses some open source software occasionally, everything else is built and owned by Haptik. “We have our own proprietary algorithm, tools and interfaces to build all these,” he notes.
What also works in favour of Haptik is that its founders have a robust network due to their stint in the Silicon Valley. This has helped the company achieve scale and traction. Haptik reaches about 20 million users currently and does over 5 million monthly chat requests. Its clients and partners include Coca-Cola, HDFC Life, Samsung, Sharekhan, Edelweiss Tokio, Goibibo and Amazon Pay.
The unique BOT
The Haptik team believes that its width and depth differentiates it from the rest of the players in the industry; width in terms of the kind of technology and design that backs its products (such as AI, Natural Language Processing & Machine Learning), and depth in terms of its expertise. The company now builds more than 100 bots in a year across different use cases. “No one understands the bot building process better than we do. That expertise is valuable when it comes to working with any kind of customer or enterprise,” declares he.
“Initially, we did not know what we were doing. There was no global comparison. We started with a broad concept and started working on it,” shares Vaish. The company got past this through trial and error, experiments and perseverance. Today, although people understand chatbots and its value, its challenge lays in predicting how much people want chatbots and how large it will become. “Will it become a paradigm shift like how smartphones did or will it become a niche feature? A large part of my time is spent on evangelising and educating the industry,” he opines.
Talking about the company’s go-to market strategy, Vaish says, “On the consumer side, we put our services inside other pay apps – inside a TOI or Samsung Galaxy. And on the B2B side, it is largely organic. We have been getting most of our customer requests inbound.”
A look into the future
Going forward, the Haptik team has a clear mandate: to scale clients and revenue. With a 200-member team, the company is all set to clock an annual revenue run rate of US $1 million by March 2018. Buoyed by a strong sense of confidence in the power of chatbots as an interface, the team predicts that every company that is building websites or apps will soon be focussing on chatbots. In the next five years, it intends to become the largest chatbot player in the world, and it has already started investing in technology, and putting together a team to ride on the growth phase. “From an operational perspective, we want to break even at some point this year and then stay ahead of the game and build as many of these products and solutions as we can,” says the entreprenuer, on a concluding note.
Founders: Aakrit Vaish and Swapan Rajdev
Funding: In April 2016, Times Internet led a Series B round of investment in Haptik worth over $10 million.
Concept In Brief
Haptik is a chatbot platform that builds applications for consumers, publishers, and enterprises. It offers three primary products for its B2B customers. Its publisher solution is an all-in-one Software Development Kit which can be integrated by any app to enable utility and transactions’ chatbots. Its ad-tech platform enables advertisers to engage users on Haptik’s publisher network through chatbots. The third product from Haptik is an enterprise tool kit that facilitates businesses in deploying chatbots to automate their customer support across their website, Facebook messenger or mobile apps. On the consumer side, the Haptik app acts as a 24X7 chat-based personal assistant which lets its users get things done, such as setting reminders, booking a cab or flight tickets, recharging phones and more.