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It has been years since I wanted a personal assistance to do like half of my things. Not being a big fan of social interaction, finding one who doesn’t talk sounds even better. With the onset of artificial intelligence, it only seemed a possibility, but apps like Helpchat have converted this into a reality.
Launched in 2015, Helpchat is an integrated mobile app which is more like a "one app for all apps" platform, that will get things done for users from one place without having him to download various apps on the phone. But recently, it went through a tough time where they shut off their chat business and laid off about 150 employees. The CEO and Co-founder, Ankur Singla said in a blog post how they took the call to phase out chat from app and create the same level of experience using automation and simple user interfaces. The rest of the app remains the same—but it is simplified, fast and without any delays.
We interacted with Singla and find out what’s happening currently in Helpchat.
What inspired you to venture into Personal Assistance Category?
During our time at Akosha - a platform to connect consumers with brands, we discovered that the nature of queries started to evolve. Consumers were always seen grappling with a world complicated by information and choice. Every little task demanded time and attention which many don’t have too much of. We wanted to create a power tool in the hands of the people—one that amplifies their ability to get things done tremendously. This was primarily the inspiration behind venturing into the personal assistance category. Now, the app, Helpchat is India’s biggest personal assistant app that is helping consumers in all their daily decision making process.
How did you complete your first month of work and which category you secured the first order?
In the first month, we focused on strengthening the platform in real-time, evolving on the spot with user feedback. We explored deeper layers of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to provide better services to our users.
With the intent of fulfilling the orders, we focused at high frequency use-cases like hailing cabs, mobile recharges, food ordering and securing personalized deals. This technology helped us in gaining good traction and meeting consumer expectation and objectives in better manner.
What is the future expansion plans of your company, any new category would you be adding to platform?
There are more than 100,000 request being handled every day, the brand is steadily becoming the default behavior for today’s technology oriented Indian population, helping them find the perfect solution for all daily requirements.
Now, we are looking at increasing our daily request handling capability by 200,000 to address even more user queries every day. In addition to the request, Helpchat also does around 22,000 transactions per day. On an average user is doing around 5.4 transactions a month across min 2 categories. We are focused on achieving 100,000 transactions a day, across categories, in next 6-7 months.
What is the reason behind choosing Bangalore as headquarter for Helpchat over Delhi as the previous venture was based in Delhi?
We're on the path to build India's biggest personal assistant and for that we're continuing to look at on-boarding the best talent. We continue to have offices at both Delhi and Bangalore. Our aim is to be present in cities where we can find the best and brightest talent for Helpchat and Bangalore has a really good talent pool for both tech and product talent. It seemed like a great option for us to consider.
How govt policies are conducive enough to run this new category?
Government policies at large have created an environment that fully supports startups and the entrepreneur ecosystem. Much before the Startup India program, Indian government released Digital India campaign, which has been fundamental in spreading digital literacy and creating awareness in the markets. Owing to the initiative by the government, today’s consumer is much more informed and hence we needn’t invest our efforts in the same.
Startup community will surely benefit from the simplification of startup processes both, registration and fundraising. Furthermore, various rebates introduced in the program, especially in registering patent and , income taxes would further work in our favor.
Would you ever consider a sell out?
We are here to build a large business and provide a Personal assistant service to every Indian. At this stage we are focussed on growing our customer base and making Helpchat a default platform for people. Helpchat can be used right from early morning till the day ends for various needs across categories. We have a huge opportunity in front of us.
What is your opinion of start-ups coming in the e-retail space?
The e-retail space in India is bursting with opportunity. E-commerce is fast becoming the preferred way of consumers across metros and tier 2 and 3 cities of India to fulfil a wide spectrum of needs, from buying groceries, clothes to diapers for their children. I believe that if one has a solid understanding of the market they are catering to and have a well-defined vision of what they seek to achieve through their start-up, there’s no better time than right now to follow one’s entrepreneurial dreams. Add to that the policy support from the government and investor interest in the segment, the e-retail space is surely lucrative for those who know how to differentiate from other ecommerce ventures. I think differentiation and clear value proposition is the key.