Ankur Singla, founder of Akosha, wants to revolutionize the process of resolving consumer queries, through his platform for B2C and C2B communication. So far this fiscal, it has received 40 lakh consumer queries from several sectors including e-commerce
Remember that time when there was a big game on and your television gave out? Or the time when your friends were visiting and your fridge went on strike? What a lot of consumers would also remember is the agonising wait on after-sales service or the lack of a constructive solution to a problem.
Ankur Singla, founder-CEO, Akosha, turned his poor experience into a stroke of inspiration for a business. “I had a difficult time dealing with India’s leading telecom service provider over an inflated mobile phone bill that I received for Internet services,” he recalls. This made him realise how difficult consumer complaint redressal in India really is, as one embarks on a proverbial wild goose chase to get one’s complaints resolved and has to navigate through multiple channels to be heard.
Akosha was established in 2009 as a platform for consumer complaints, though, that was not the core proposition. “On interacting with brands and exploring this space we realised that companies too wanted to reach out to their customers with better response time and services but were often at their wits’ end about how to achieve this goal,” he explains. Thus, Akosha evolved to become an online platform that serves the needs of both ends of the spectrum, the consumer and the brand. In effect, Akosha created a mission for itself; to mend the broken traditional channels of communication between consumer and brand.
Connecting two ends
From around 2,000 queries per day in 2014, Akosha currently receives over 30,000 customer enquiries daily over web, telephone and its Android chat app. Product discovery, pricing information, discounts, customer service, booking appointments and travel research are some of the purposes the app is used for. Currently, the app supports more than 18,000 chat sessions per day and has been growing at 20-25 per cent week-on-week. The app is free for the users and currently has 140,000 users, having grown 15X in one year. This year, Akosha has so far received over 40,00,000 consumer queries across sectors, including telecom, consumer appliances, e-commerce, mobile, banking and insurance.
As per a trend report the company released earlier this year, in 2014, the maximum number of queries were received for the e-commerce sector (21 per cent) followed by the telecom sector (14 per cent) and banking and finance (11 per cent). The current mobile application has features that allow a consumer to chat with a business directly or take help from Akosha experts on various channels like technical support, shopping assistance, offers, local services etc. “We envision a future where B2C and C2B communication will be as smooth as sending a text to a friend,” says Singla.
Akosha monetizes by providing the premium version of its enterprise software, OneDirect, to brands for fast and personalised interactions with their consumers. Over 130 large brands use Akosha’s OneDirect platform to respond to consumer enquiries every week. Around 30 of these enterprises have become paying customers who subscribe to a premium version of the OneDirect Enterprise Suite.
“Our B2B business has witnessed an exponential growth in the last two years. We have grown 300 per cent year-on-year,” says Singla. It started with brands such as Groupon, Daikin and Voltas and at present, the company works with big name players across industries. Brands such as Micromax, Snapdeal, Goibibo, Aircel, MTS, Videocon and DishTV use Akosha to to manage their reputation online and customer experience. “In this year, we have already added Jabong.com, Pepperfry, Makemytrip, OLX, FabFurnish, Dominos, Yatra.com, Puma etc. to our clientele,” adds Singla.
Growing its team
Angel investors, including the start-up accelerator Morpheus, initially funded Akosha. The company received a seed funding of US$5.2 million from Bengaluru-based Sequoia in July 2014 and recently raised a Series-B to the tune of Rs. 100 crore also led by Sequoia.
The company faced the typical challenges that all start-ups encounter during their early years; hiring the right kind of talent, scaling operations and attracting investors.
Over the last year, Akosha has grown its employee base from 180 to over 300 and it recently opened a technology and product office in Bangalore. “We will use this round of financing to hire over 200 software engineers and product managers to build the platform and fund the fast growing new mobile app for connecting consumers and businesses. We are looking at adding close to 500 people to our team this year,” shares Singla.
Akosha was founded to help consumers with post purchase issues. With the growth of mobile, it aims to build a messaging platform for all interactions between consumers and businesses including discovery, buying, appointments and customer service.
Initially, Akosha relied on word-of-mouth to create a buzz. “Since our business model was unique it was quite natural for it to grab the attention of the customers. After a couple of years, as we started growing, we invested in channels like online marketing and PR,” says Singla.
This year, the company will focus on marketing aggressively and has plans to make significant investments in ATL and BTL campaigns.
“We hope to be doing 1,00,000 customer interactions per day within three months. But I think we’re just getting started. We are confident that in the near future, Akosha Chat will be a competitive customer service differentiator for businesses,” states Singla.
Speedy execution combined with sound decision-making will help the company fulfil this vision of becoming the single unified platform for consumers to interact with brands and get things done over chat.
EARLIEST MEMORY OF MY STARTUP
My early memories are of meeting Sameer from Morpheus and of coming up with our identity. We were sitting in a cafe and going through a list of 400 names I had come up with the help of a few friends but nothing was really sticking. Suddenly, Sameer came up with Akosha. We googled Akosha up and found that “Kosha” meant something in Sanskrit – and since we were too lazy to change it, it stuck (though the flexibility did prove handy later). Around this time, someone suggested to us that we also offer consumer complaint help for Indian consumers. Though I was sceptical because I thought it was all too complex, I still decided to add it because we weren’t making much revenue anyway. We got a few customers for this but we still had no clue about what lay ahead. – Ankur Singla
Founder: Ankur Singla
Investors: Sequoia Capital
Focus: Akosha is a messaging platform for all consumer to business interactions