The participation of insurers from rural areas is abysmally low in our country. And life insurers, especially private companies, have always been focussed more towards the urban population. For a long time now, the sector has not found many takers from rural areas due to several reasons such as low literacy rates, low incomes, etc. 

According to IRDAI, the insurance tech is a business that is yet to penetrate more than five percent of India’s population in the life segment, and in the non-life segment it is only 15 percent of the total viable market of $100 billion.

Spotting a gap in the segment, Abhishek Tiwari founded iAssure in 2015. The Jaipur-based startup aims to increase insurance penetration in semi-urban and rural areas, and is providing a platform for people to buy all general insurance products with point of sales persons (POSPs). 

“While working in Tier-II and III markets, we realised there was a huge gap in distribution as far as insurance is concerned. For example, Rajasthan has 33 districts and 300 plus tehsils. The presence of private insurers is not more than ten districts, whereas public players have their presence in all 33 districts and another 30 tehsils. It implies that rest of the market is served by individual or corporate agents who have their own limitations when it comes to offer choice of product and servicing,” says Abhishek. 

“We decided to solve this problem of distribution by digitising the insurance services, create mass level networks, create employment, and serve the unserved and underserved consumers in semi urban and rural markets of Bharat,” he adds. 

According to the company, it is helping individuals sign up with the right insurance plans at affordable price. At present, the startup is providing services in the northern regions of the country, and is currently present in ten states.

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The journey

A law and CA graduate, Abhishek worked with the ICICI Bank for a decade. He also served as the CEO at Au Insurance broking, and it was here the idea of iAssure was born. 

Abhishek says his mission statement is simple – he wants iAssure to insure 5,600 tehsils of India and become a one-stop solution for all financial protection needs of the customers in the next five years. 

“iAssure aims to solve the problem of lack of awareness, trust, digitisation, and distribution in semi urban and rural markets, which is home to eighty percent of the Indian population. iAssure also aims to bridge the deficit of trust by getting the transaction executed through a hyper local trusted resource who talks to the customer in his own language. It’s a sociable, sustainable, and scalable business model,” says Abhishek. 

“When I started out, there were difficulties. Like any startup, there was lack of trust initially among customers. Building a team, creating a model, and establishing a PoC with the technology platform was difficult. Three years down the line, we realised it’s a natural path, which any business or entrepreneur has to travel,” says Abhishek.

iasureThe product

The startup appoints point of sales people (POSP) who travel to towns and use digital means to show different products and pricing to customers that suits their needs. They assist individuals in choosing the right product and also help people with digital payments. 

“We recruit people with basic qualifications from remote areas, provide training to these individuals, and enable them to sell insurance in semi urban and rural markets. These people enjoy the trust of local customers as they belong to the same place, thus helping in the creation of employment/self-employment in these markets as well,” says Abhishek. 

IAssure’s point of sales person can use the phone to access products from multiple insurers, and compare and advise people about the best insurance plan to suit their needs. Since all this happens on a digital platform, it is easy for them to explain the product to the customers. They can also cross sell/upsell to same customer along with a motor insurance and the POSPs can also pitch a health insurance.

The company claims to be having 5,500 POSP counters in the last three years and has issued close to half a million policies.

The insurance market in India

In FY-16, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) introduced and came up with guidelines for Point of Sale Persons, which was aimed at increasing penetration of insurance products by spreading distribution. Under these guidelines, intermediaries were allowed to appoint point of sales people under them who could sell pre underwritten products.

iAssure

Iassure founder Abhishek

Speaking about the current scenario, Abhishek says: “In the life insurance space, about 65 percent market is dominated by individual agents, 25 percent by corporate agents, five percent by insurance companies directly, and the rest is distributed among others. Only five percent sell online. So 95 percent of the market in life insurance is B2B and only five percent is B2C.”

According to the startup, in the non-life insurance segment ,about 30 percent is contributed by individual agents, 12 percent by corporate agents, 28 percent is direct, and 22 percent by brokers. Therefore 80 percent market is B2B and 20 percent B2C.

With the advent of technology and the release of POSP guidelines by IRDAI, the model is now evolving to assisted sales, where there will be physical touch points (individual advisors) with digital enablement. That’s where iAssure’s sweet spot is. 

The business and plans ahead

The bootstrapped startup, which is funded by family and friends, has made a total investment of close to Rs 12 crore in the company till date. 

The startup follows a revenue sharing model. iAssure shares 75 percent of the revenue with the POSP who sources the business and retains a margin of 25 percent on each transaction. 

Till date, the startup, which competes insurtech startups like Acko, Policy Bazaar, and Artivatic, claims to have served half a million customers. The startup clocked a revenue of Rs 9 crore in FY-20, and is eyeing Rs 15 crore in revenue by FY-21. However, the company is yet to become profitable. 

“Q-1 has been encouraging so far owing to the all-time high risk recognition among customers due to the COVID-19 outbreak. There has been a positive shift in the product mix and we have booked more business in health and life insurance vertical as compared to motor insurance,” says Abhishek. 

In the next 18 months, the startup wants to cover 1,400 tehsils in 10 states in its current area of operation and penetrate vertically. So far, it has covered 500 tehsils in North India. 

The government and IRDAI are also relentlessly working on reforms to improve the situation. Recently, the government increased FDI to 100 percent in the insurance intermediation business, and this alone means that iAssure can scale up in the future. 

Edited by Megha Reddy

Original Source: yourstory.com

Rashmi Verma, Executive Director and Co-founder of MapmyIndia, had one thing in mind when she returned to India from the US in 1990 – build something lasting and powerful. 

A graduate in Chemical Engineering from IIT Roorkee with a master’s in Operational Research and Computer Science from Eastern Washington University, Rashmi worked for the likes of Citi Corp before joining IBM in the US. She then returned to India with her husband and realised India did not have a map reading culture like the US. 

With the firm belief that India has a huge market for digital maps, Rashmi co-founded MapmyIndia in 1995 along with her husband, Rakesh Verma. The Delhi-based company offers digital map data, telematics, and location-based SaaS and GIS services, and is now making waves with its app, Move. 

From building GIS mapping tech for Coca Cola to offering solutions to customers in industries such as automobile, ecommerce, banking and insurance, spacetech, and more, today MapmyIndia’s in-built digital map solutions are used by auto companies like Tata Motors, Hyundai, Mahindra & Mahindra, BMW, Ford, Jaguar, TVS Motors, and others. The maps also power Flipkart, Amazon, and Ola Cabs.

With over three decades of experience in technology, Rashmi, who always believed technology has the power to bring quick and fast solutions, is now focusing on the broader strategic tech roadmaps and plans for MapmyIndia. 

The MapmyIndia Move app was also awarded the Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge for its unique indigenous solution for ensuring hyperlocal discovery.

Techie Tuesday- Rashmi Verma

Rashmi Verma at an event in 2017

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Engineering and coding 

Rashmi’s father was a doctor, who worked for the Northeastern railways, and her mother was a homemaker. She spent most of her childhood in different parts of North India like Gorakhpur, Bareilly, and Banaras (Varanasi). 

Rashmi describes herself as an academically inclined child and wanted to do medicine like her father. As it meant a lot of studying, she chose to do engineering from the University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee). 

“I didn’t appear for many entrance exams and directly joined University of Roorkee. I was one of the nine girls who took up the Chemical Engineering course in 1973,” says Rashmi. 

She says in those days there wasn’t much information of what electives to take, but in retrospect she feels she chose the best one. “It gave me a strong base on the fundamentals of engineering and also helped me in the future, and it made it easier for me to understand and learn different things and new concepts,” says Rashmi. 

Rashmi got married during her third year of engineering, in 1976, and a year after her graduation she went to the US with her husband and pursued her master’s in Operational Research and Computer Science from Eastern Washington University. 

She defines the course as the precursor to big data and data science. It was here that she learnt all about analytics, coding, and programming. After completing her master’s in 1979, Rashmi joined Citi Corp where she worked on building and handling the information technology for banks. 

“I learnt all about banking technologies, and it was my first foray into building banking solutions, working on programming and coding,” adds Rashmi. Techie Tuesday - Rashmi Verma

Rashmi at Eastern University Washington in 1979

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A mix of hardware and software 

After her stint at the Citi Corp in the early 80s, Rashmi joined Scowell systems that worked on technology for home appliances. She explains that working at these firms gave her a detailed understanding of both the software and the manufacturing aspects of technology.

“It gave me an understanding of coding and programming across different sectors, and the impact and power of technology in each of the spaces,” explains Rashmi. 

But according to her, it was only after joining IBM in 1984 that her horizons expanded. At that point in time, IBM had 600 people, and it was the beginning of an era where computer science professionals were hired as project consultants.

She says, “Not only was I travelling around the country training different software professionals, I was also working on billable projects going to different customers, building the core technology for different parts of the business with IBM Mainframe. I realised that I am a detail oriented person, and programming and building different mainframe products and projects gave me the much needed push.” 

“One thing about technology is that you have the ability to find solutions for different kinds of problems. It is always zero to one,” she adds. Techie Tuesday - Rashmi Verma

Rashmi Verma with the IBM team in 1984

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India calling 

After working at IBM in the US for six years, Rashmi realised she wanted to come back home and use technology to solve real problems. She returned to India along with her family in 1990 and continued to work in IBM Mainframe technologies. 

Rashmi explains, “We had our family here, and while that was one strong driving force, another strong force was the work we could do. We knew that technology had the power to transform lives, and we wanted to make that difference to the everyday lives of people in India.” 

“We started doing projects for Tata Steel and we had also built a pool of people who could work on these projects. I continued to shuttle between India and the US, but then realised I didn’t want to lead that kind of life. What was the point of coming back to India if I was working on projects in the US, and my two children were here and I wanted to spend time with them,” says Rashmi. 

Until then India did not have digital maps used by the general population. Most of the maps used satellite images and were built for government or military purposes. The maps, as we see it today, were built later manually by gathering data and information. 

When the husband-wife duo decided to focus on India specific problems, they knew mapping was one area that will help solve several logistics challenges. But purely working on IBM mainframe systems didn’t help. It was then they realised they needed to work on smaller DC systems, and one core problem that stood out was the lack of any digital maps. People just weren’t using any map-based technologies in India. 

“That was the beginning because without the map we can’t solve any problem even if we have all the technologies like GIS software,” explains Rashmi.

Techie Tuesday-  Rashmi Verma

Rashmi during her IIT Roorkee days

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Mapping India 

The Indian economy was opening up in the 90s, and companies like Coca Cola were looking closely at the Indian market. 

“They needed maps, and we scrambled to build something to give them an early solution,” says Rashmi. She says they built a high-level map with the district boundaries to help with the distribution network. 

However, the company needed a solution for cities where the trucks would ply and sell Coca Cola bottles to every outlet. This meant building streetwise maps with the outlets. 

“This wasn’t just a digital map. We built a solution using GIS mapping technology. We worked for the likes Motorola, Modi Xerox, and a few others,” adds Rashmi. 

While there was no GPS, Rashmi says she leveraged the telecom revolution to help build solution for telecom companies. This was for their towers, where they wanted to know the maximum amount of technology they needed to deploy. 

“We built the triangulation services on our maps to help them with the best areas and what technology they could deploy, which also helped us scale our maps,” says Rashmi. It also gave them an idea of demography and signal strengths in each areas. 

Techie Tuesday- Rashmi Verma

Rashmi being felicitated at an event in 2018

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A deeper understanding 

Rashmi says the pace of technology is faster now. Earlier, they had to painstakingly collect data manually. “Now we have real-time data gathering, map building, and machine learning that makes it easier to understand the changes,” she explains.

Today, MapmyIndia’s product – Move – offers a detailed house number-level map search, compatibility with India’s own satellite imagery service from ISRO’s Bhuvan, real-time traffic and safety-based navigation, and more.

The company has grown with location technology, specifically in the areas of navigation, tracking, IoT, and analytics to provide products, services, and solutions to over 10 million end users – consumers, enterprises, and governments.

Advising techies Rashmi says, “My advice to techies is that whatever area you pick, ensure that you deep dive into it. I believe there are now two kinds of techies – one is the techie who goes into the bits and bytes and rebuilds deep tech. Another type of techie is one who goes to the business side of things and understand the plethora of things that helps give them a broader overview of what solution can be built. If you happen to be the first kind, I would advise you to dive extremely deep.” 

Edited by Megha Reddy

Original Source: yourstory.com

Founded in 2017, WorkApps with its enterprise-grade messaging platform for large organisations has been working towards enabling enterprises to augment their communication efforts, improve efficiency and change the way people collaborate and work together. “While we worked with enterprises, we realised the communication requirements for sectors were different and specialised and needed messaging solutions,” shares Rudrajeet Desai, Co-Founder and CEO, WorkApps.

The realisation saw the startup led by Rudrajeet Desai, Shankar Borate and Kaizad Shroff mastering workflows to make chatting as well as audio and video calling more effective for banks, NBFCs, insurers and the other players of the FinTech sector.

“Today, we are synonymous with being a video banking company. WorkApps’ video platform enables banks in the sector to migrate business processes and customer interaction to video channels,” he says.

This includes 14 key processes such as KYC, credit verification, loan and wealth advisory, customer support, online assistance during digital onboarding, video Medical Examination Report, and asset verification among others.

As the WorkApps’ video banking solution gained momentum, one use case in particular, began gaining increased traction – the VideoKYC. Further impetus came in the form of an RBI amendment to the KYC norms in January 2020 that allowed banking and other lending institutions regulated by it to use Video-based Customer Identification Process to onboard customers remotely. And, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, the nationwide lockdown thereafter, and the need for minimising physical interaction saw the video KYC solution gaining increasing significance so much that VideoKYC has been rolled out as a product in itself within the larger gamut of the WorkApps’ video banking solution.

Watch the video to see how VideoKYC makes it easy for banks, NBFCs, payment banks, small finance banks, wallets, fintech to onboard customers remotely seamlessly

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Building on AWS

While the environmental factors provided the nudge for accelerated adoption, the key growth drivers for VideoKYC have been its depth of features, smooth user journey, security and data ownership. And AWS has played a key role in enabling this. “VideoKYC’s development, staging, testing and production setups are hosted on AWS enabling a product company like us to focus only on core product and feature development. It helped us reduce the effort required to deploy and manage development infrastructure by almost 80 percent,” says Rudrajeet.

This has translated into a faster time-to-market. “What would otherwise take three months gets done in three weeks when you are leveraging AWS services.” Pointing to the face match with documents feature on VideoKYC, Rudrajeet says it would have been extremely challenging for a small startup like WorkApps to create a face comparison feature on its own from scratch. On AWS, it’s literally like a takeaway. You can integrate a face comparison feature by leveraging Amazon Rekognition in just about three hours.”

In addition to Amazon Rekognition, VideoKYC uses a range of services like AWS Elastic Load Balancer, Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) for MySQL, Amazon ElastiCache for Redis, Amazon Elasticsearch Service, AWS Lambda, Amazon CloudWatch, and Amazon Simple Email Service, among others.

“The Video KYC platform runs on different traffic such as https, web sockets for web and TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)/UDP (User Datagram Protocol) for audio/video traffic. The different load balancer options such as Application Load Balancer (ALB) for https and Network Load Balancer (NLB) for TCP and UDP available on AWS Elastic Load Balancer addresses our different needs. The inherent capabilities of these load balancers to scale for different loads solve our scalability concerns,” explains Shankar, the CTO and Co-founder. And, given that different banks have different capacity needs, which also vary at different times during a day, Amazon EC2 helps to scale up and down the infrastructure, providing cost savings in addition to flexibility. VideoKYC also leverages Amazon Simple Email Service to send notifications to email and uses AWS Lambda to call their messaging service to integrate alerts to its chat platform. “This way we can see all the alerts in e-mail as well as in the chat application,” says Shankar.

The AWS advantage

The breadth of AWS services, its ability to facilitate scale, and the quick turnaround time to setup infrastructure were critical aspects that led VideoKYC to choose AWS. But another but equally critical reason to choose AWS was its strong security framework.

“AWS provides many native security features, which are required when you operate in the Banking and Financial Services space. And, KYC in particular is a highly regulated subject in India because you are owning very critical information such as bank account details, Aadhar card details, among others,” says Shankar.

AWS provides different security control such as Virtual Private Network (VPC),Security Groups, and Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles to control the accesses of infrastructure along with secure connections using Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Secure Shell (SSH), Shankar explains.

While VideoKYC offers a number of deployment options – from a complete SaaS model hosted on AWS (Mumbai Region) to Hybrid SaaS model to private cloud or even traditional on-premise model, most of its clients are on AWS. “So this makes deploying and managing our platform on their AWS infrastructure extremely simple, reducing the time-to-market and the cost of management and support.”

A pioneering effort

Today, VideoKYC powers over a million transactions for India’s top banks, which includes Kotak Bank, Axis Bank, IndusInd Bank, ICICI Bank, Paytm Payments Bank, RBL Bank, and Yes Bank. In addition to that, other BFSI players like HDFC Life, Aditya Birla Capital, Max Life Insurance, Tata Capital, Muthoot Capital also use various other services of WorkApps. Rudrajeet says that VideoKYC has been a pioneer in the space. “We were the first to launch the solution with Kotak 811, and today we are also the largest deployed solution in the BFSI sector.”

The on-ground impact speaks for the efficiency and effectiveness of VideoKYC.

“It has brought down the customer onboarding time to 15 minutes from an average of 48 hours as is the norm in a physical KYC process. Banks also save about 90 percent of the KYC cost when done on video. In addition w.r.t. the consumer convenience perspective, the impact is massive,” says the CEO. He adds, “The Video KYC platform, which is deployed on AWS by most of our customers has become the largest customer acquisition channel for banks in India.”The global opportunity

Reflecting on VideoKYC, Rudrajeet says creating a video KYC platform when there was no set precedent and then working on it to develop and nurture into a market-winning enterprise grade platform has been a journey that has catapulted the startup to growth.

“VideoKYC has today become a WorkApps’ flagship product.” The support of angel investor Sashi Reddi (SRI Capital) has also provided the startup much needed guidance on building a global product.

The founder explains that the startup’s strong understanding of the banking and NBFC sector and its dominance in the Indian market has doubled up as an advantage to further its global expansion plans. “The volume that Indian banking players handle is very large. In fact, the volumes handled by one single leading banking player in India is often equivalent to an entire country’s banking volume in some cases. In addition, when it comes to digital banking regulations, India is a forerunner in the space. So, there’s a lot to learn from India for other markets.” It has already channelised efforts in the direction by launching in Thailand in August. “We are in talks with local banking players,” reveals the Founder. Middle East and SouthEast Asia will be a key focus area for VideoKYC's global expansion in the coming months. “While the KYC regulations will be different across regions, we are looking at co-creation to win the market,” says Rudrajeet.

Industry experts say that the accelerated shift to digital will fundamentally change the way banks will scale and grow. Rudrajeet concurs and says “Video will be the future of banking and WorkApps aims to become the default video banking platform for the sector.”

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

Original Source: yourstory.com

The global Covid-19 pandemic has impacted us in ways that we could not have imagined. With countries going under lockdown,  businesses and entrepreneurs have been among the worst hit. It was inevitable that the global markets would also follow suit. The Sensex, which peaked at 42,273.87 points in February 2020, crashed over 38 percent by March 23 to 25,638.90 points, making it one of the fastest crashes in stock market history, even worse than the 2008 market crash. While existing investors will feel the pinch, this could be a great opportunity for first-time investors. The pandemic has also resulted in a significant increase in mobile trading.  

5paisa.com, which recently became the first Indian fintech firm to go public, has been supporting its investors by focusing on customer-centricity; innovation; expansion to Tier 2 and 3 cities; and using technology to serve customers looking for a  broker-free and secure platform. The platform currently boasts a daily turnover of over Rs 30,000 crore,  over 450,000 clients, over 3.5 million downloads, over Rs 1,000 core in  Assets under Management and more than Rs 500 crore in Market Capitalisation.

As part of YourStory’s new series, ‘Money Matters with Shradha Sharma’, we talk to experts, entrepreneurs, and investors for insights on investment opportunities, savings, spendings, and more. In this episode, YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma was joined by 5paisa.com Founder and CEO, Prakarsh Gagdani, who spoke about the changing face of broking, the new-age investor, and tapping into unchartered markets. Here are some of the highlights from that session.


Investment grew despite the dip in the market

Prakarsh says that they noticed some very surprising trends following the pandemic.  Despite the market not being favourable for nearly a year-and-a-half, retail investors were still coming to market and showing interest in Systematic Investment Plans (SIP) and mutual funds were booming. After going public, 5paisa was optimistic about retail investors coming. “But suddenly the COVID-19 outbreak happened and we thought interest would fade.  But we saw a completely reverse trend. The markets were going down, but people started approaching stocks at twice the speed.” He adds that  March, April, May, and June have been among the best in terms of people coming to capital markets and the highest number of Demat accounts were opened in the months of March and April. 

With people spending less during the lockdown, and the future being uncertain, Prakarsh says that there has been a huge shift in the mindset of the investor. “That's why they're coming more towards investment. It's a very healthy trend, and a very good trend, which I feel that it will continue for a long time,” he says.

Catering to first-time investors

“A lot of our investors are first-timers. So they come with basic queries about how to transfer funds and what documents to give,” says Prakarsh. To address these queries, 5paisa.com has created an instructional video in Hindi that they share with their introductory email. “Video consumption is high. So, we focused our entire energies on building our video inventory, training, and imparting process knowledge to people. Our YouTube channel has more than 1.1 lakh subscribers, one of the highest in the industry. We have five to six million views a month on these videos. We decided to make these videos in Hindi from the start so that subscribers from the Hindi belt should not face any barriers,” he says.

When it comes to giving investment advice, Parkarsh says, “Let me state my disclaimer that I am no expert in advising, so please ask a financial advisor.” He says a few sectors like anything agri-related are logical choices because, “People don't stop eating. In fact, they may be eating more since they are stuck at home.”  Fertiliser, which is an allied sector, private mobility, oil and natural gas and pharma are all sectors that Parkarsh believes are likely to see traction. 

Exploring new avenues

5paisa.com recently entered the peer-to-peer lending space. “This is at a very nascent stage in India. However, lending itself is age-old in India. There are businesses that require short-term loans. There are people who need three-month, six-month, one-year loans. On the other hand, there are people who want to give money. I mean, if you talk to any business guy, he must have lent money to someone as a short-term loan at some point. The entire peer-to-peer lending platform makes it organised and under the purview of the regulators, which is very stringent in India,” says Parkarsh. He acknowledges that this is a difficult time, and people are currently loan-averse. “But I think in some time it might change because the moment we go back to our normal lives, the requirement of money will come. I'm pretty optimistic about this business, and we're promoting it internally with our customers and externally as well,” he says.

 

5paisa.com’s objective has always been on financial products that can be digitally served end-to-end and doesn't require any human intervention or paperwork. “We started with equities, then we had mutual funds, personal loans, and now peer to peer lending. We sell gold and health insurance. Our energies are focussed on equities, which is seeing a great momentum,” says Parkarsh.

The future of Fintech

Parkarsh believes that most of the disruption in Fintech is happening in the payment space along with digital lending, banking and broking. “But because it is highly regulated, they needed to become an intermediary to come into Fintech. One interesting trend is neo-banking. There are players who are not full-service banks and or registered banks, but offering services. I think that's an interesting space. Secondly, how do you get international investment in India? It's tedious and it's highly regulated. But I think that's an interesting space,” he say

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

Original Source: yourstory.com

Sharath Keshava was heading the Southeast Asia region for Practo, working out of Manila, Philippines, the business process outsourcing (BPO) capital of the world. He realised that one of the problems in BPO was delay and latency, which acted as a roadblock in driving faster and better customer experience. 

Sharath roped in his friends Akash Singh, who was in InMobi, and Swapnil Jai, who was heading engineering at Twitter, and the trio ended up starting Observe.AI in the San Francisco’s Bay Area in May 2017. The startup launched operations in Bengaluru in 2019. 

Observe.AI is a voice AI platform which provides the agent with real-time feedback on customer sentiment and guides them on the next best action during a customer call.

Product Roadmap - Observe.AI

The Observe.AI team

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The AI platform listens to the call stream in real time, uses deep learning and natural language processing (NLP) to understand the context and generates suggestions and guidance for the agent. Explaining how the product works, Jitender Vepa, Head of India, and Chief Scientist says, 

“Our voice AI technology helps contact centres keep teams productive and empathetic from home so they can provide the best possible customer experience – even while working remotely. To do this we use AI and natural language processing to analyse 100 percent of a support team’s calls for opportunities to improve the customer experience, mitigate compliance/legal risks, and coach agents. Without voice AI, contact centres typically analyse only one percent or fewer calls, and they have a team of quality analysts who do that manually.”How does voice AI help?

Jitender says it can take an hour to review just a single call. They have no real insight into what’s happening on the other 99 percent of calls, or how agents are truly performing. 

Teams for quality, compliance, operators, and people managers use multiple platforms and spreadsheets to uncover insights from calls, and to evaluate/coach agents. This process is especially difficult to scale for contact centres who have recently sent all their agents to remote work overnight due to the coronavirus crisis. 

With voice AI, these remote teams can work on a 30-minute call in five minutes. They can evaluate 10x more calls and provide agents with more targetted coaching. They can also ensure that they never miss a compliance gap or fraud risk on calls to stay safe. Using one platform helps contact centre teams collaborate and remain connected when they are no longer able to hear and see what’s happening on the call centre floor. 

“Currently, we lead the industry in the best speech-to-text transcription accuracy for support calls. We are even more accurate than Google and Amazon, particularly at detecting strong emotions, such as positive or negative sentiment, from calls,” claims Jitender. Also Read[Product Roadmap] How apartment management app MyGate is tapping tech to ensure security and safety Building the first product 

The first prototype focussed on providing the most accurate transcription of contact centre’s support calls.

The team then continued to enhance features that would detect strong emotions, such as sentiment or tonality, from calls to provide better insights and coaching opportunities. They also built features to detect periods of long silences on calls, which help highlight time management inefficiencies and identify a lack of agent confidence in how to respond to a customer interaction. 

“This is called ‘Dead Air’ and drives up the talk time on calls, which can become very expensive for contact centres who need to run at the utmost efficiency to keep costs down for customers,” says Jitender. 

One of the early ‘Eureka’ moments for the team was when they visited Manila, Philippines, that houses some of the largest contact centres in the world. When they toured some of these contact centres and showed them the prototype, the executives were blown away, and within two weeks the team had set up more than ten meetings with companies who employ tens of thousands of agents. 

“We knew we were on to something and started with tackling the call monitoring and compliance. We then added features to evaluate and coach and will soon offer real-time to complete our offerings for the voice channel before expanding it beyond voice,” says Jitender. Evolution of the product 

The team soon realised that building a best-in-class speech recognition engine for support teams was just a means to an end where they could start to help them automate tedious processes and eventually augment agents on live calls. 

“At the end of the day, everything we do is geared towards improving the customer experience and the agent experience. The feedback we got from our customers on how to prioritise future advancements for our platform made it clear that real-time agent augmentation would be most valuable to them and something we could uniquely offer, given the higher accuracy of our voice AI platform, which is critical to these future capabilities,” says Jitender. 

The team then continued to add new quality management features to their voice AI engine so that contact centre teams could do more with the insights from their calls, including surface the best calls to review, efficiently evaluate and score more calls, provide feedback and coach agents right within Observe.AI in near real-time. 

“We continued to improve our ability to auto-suggest the interactions and keywords that contact centres should monitor on their calls to make it easier for them to run their contact centre with efficiency and get meaningful insights from calls,” says Jitender. 

The team also started generic integrations as they onboarded more and more customers and realised that there is a need for generic APIs so that they can do integrations faster. 

They next focussed on Redaction, which is masking critical/sensitive information to comply with data regulatory guidelines like PCI-DSS, GDPR. The sensitive information includes financial details like card numbers, bank account numbers, and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as social security number, addresses, and contact number.  

“At Observe.AI, we solved this problem by using named entity extraction of pre-defined entities or categories, which covers both financial and PII information mentioned earlier. First, we identify entities present in a call, such as social security or credit card numbers, and then we redact them from the audio calls and their corresponding transcript,” says Jitender. 

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Observe.AI is currently building a team dedicated to real-time features that will help teams coach agents on how to personalise the customer experience live on calls and are hiring for multiple product and engineering roles. 

This will include features like suggesting a next-best action, alerting a supervisor when an agent might need help, and automating tedious processes, such as data-entry, so that agents can focus on providing a better customer experience on the call. 

The team is also adding Spanish language and omni-channel capabilities, such as the ability to evaluate text, email, or chat interactions. 

“It’s taken us about a year and a half since we launched our US office to land our first 110 customers and several strategic partnerships. Middle of last year, we started onboarding one of our largest customers and calls coming to our platform increased suddenly by five-fold, which sped up our need to scale our infrastructure. We adopted AWS fargate for some of our services, and introduced data retention in our DBs so that recent data can be accessed fast,” says Jitender. 

The global outsourced customer services market is believed to reach $84.7 billion by the end of this year. And yet companies are said to be losing more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. 

Some of Observe.AI’s competitors include – Neva.ai and DigitalGenius, among others. Observe.AI follows a standard pricing model for its customers, which is on a per-agent per-month basis. 

It also gives out bulk discounts for enterprises that look at large volumes and basis size of the deals. Last year, the team had eight enterprise customers and now has over 100. Some of its clients are – TripAdvisor, Talkdesk, itelBPO, Microsoft, Root Insurance, ClearMe, and ERCBPO to name a few. 

Speaking about future plans, Jitender says, “We will increasingly integrate our platform with others, such as CRMs or workforce management platforms to provide updates and alerts, to bring insights from voice calls into those platforms and automate processes.” 

(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)

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Original Source: yourstory.com