This Techie is Helping Businesses Create Customer Interaction Through Messenger
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Anand Chandrasekaran, Indian-born techie, not only comes across as a humble, pleasant and an extremely focused man but is vouched by his colleagues and investees as a genuine and approachable person. Today living out of USA, Chandrasekaran is no stranger to India having held critical posts in Leading Indian organizations like Bharti Airtel and Snapdeal. In his current role as the Director, Platform/Product Partnerships, Facebook Messenger, he is turning around the Messenger as a complete business enabler.
Talking to Ritu Marya, Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur India, Chandrasekaran gives a low-down on the growing acceptance of the platform among businesses.
What changes are you effecting at the Messenger?
There are a number of them. The biggest one being the 2.0 of the platform – an year after its original launch. When Messenger platform was originally launched, it sort of created the word chatbot because there were lot of services driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning Program (MLP) but that has evolved in 2.0 with rich visuals and experiences on one hand and MLP-based experiences on the other hand. Second is the chat extension, which is the ability for group thread and also the bot to be in the single thread, so that if I am booking a ticket and talking to few people, both can happen on the same thread. The other common feature was allowing for the best customer experiences to be discovered through a ‘discovery’ tab.
Do you see payments integral to the Messenger?
We already have payments in multiple forms integrated over the last year. First, consumer features like peer-to-peer, bill splitting and group payment experiences, which until now were mostly in the US. We are planning to roll it out in other countries. Second feature is having payments as an API for developers to integrate into their experiences and third is having more financial services brands on the Messenger, so that my bank is available on my Messenger. For example, I have intergrated my American Express account on my Messenger and so every time I use my card, I get transaction confirmation. So lots of those two-way notifications are beginning to happen. Overall, there are 100k active developers on the platform and about two billion messages exchanged between people and businesses. In terms of number of businesses that use Messenger, out of 70 million pages on Facebook, around 20 million actively message their consumers through Messenger.
How do you compete with the WhatsApp’s market?
They are both part of the same family. Both are successful in different parts of the globe with commonality in some basic features. Beyond that, they are independent businesses for Facebook. Both of them are still in the growth mode even as Messenger has grown exponentially in the last year. We have approaches and feature prioritization, which are different from each other.
Can you share few use cases of its adoption in India?
Messenger has got active acceptance in India and businesses are identifying how to create customer interaction through Messenger. To exemplify, auto booking app Jugnoo built Messenger integration and they have seen a lot of traction. Similarly, for services marketplace UrbanClap there customer response rate is now 80 per cent. Several start-ups have integrated Messenger into their business. In Silicon Valley, there are many businesses that exists only on the Messenger. This is a good indicator of the traction.
How about adding the visual aspect to Messenger?
We have introduced ‘Webviews’ that offers a rich and deep visual experience directly pulled into Messenger. For example, I can see how flowers look before buying them. So the experience is part conversational, part visual. We feel that Messenger offers great flexibility to the developers to better user experience.
Was it tough to take Messenger out of Facebook?
It was probably one of the boldest moves to build an independent app. Even around three years back, Messenger was part of Facebook. It got us some short-term backlash from the customers who did not want to download another app. But since Facebook was building its own programs as well as the augmented reality platform etc., Messenger became a full-fledged communication tool in itself that offered features like group calling, video chat apart from text chat. This wouldn’t have been possible had it remained part of Facebook. However, there is still some correlation between the two – the profile and the API is the same. Beyond that, the two are completely different.
Can you throw light on the ‘discovery’ tab?
There are few breakthrough launches we are looking forward to. One is the ‘discovery’ tab - one of the common inclinations from both developer and consumer was that former wanted a better experiential product and latter wanted to showcase what they created. For example, one can order food from the Messenger or if two people are talking about a recipe then it will show content around it. This is just the beginning of building a third party experience and it can be surfaced without any consumer pull.
(This article was first published in the August issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)