As the coronavirus pandemic altered the way organisations engage with clients and conduct business, at least four educational institutes in Pune are using an AI-powered voice agent developed by a Gurugram-based startup, SuperBot. Potential students, who logged on to the websites of these institutes with queries about courses, fees, hostel set-up, placement and international tie-ups, among others, were answered by some of SuperBot’s intelligent system, which has more than 100 voice bots trained in various industries and verticals.
In the next six to 12 months, the company is planning major inroads into the city so that “many organisations, small and big, will be using this product in some form”. Apart from education, SuperBot operates across industries such as banking, insurance, automobiles, healthcare and beauty and wellness.
“In the HR space, for instance, where our product handles job hunting and first-level verification, among others, SuperBot is being used by several agencies. Even when some of these are not based out of Pune, we end up with a fair amount of calls from the city as Pune is an IT hub,” says Sarvagya Mishra, who founded PinnacleWorks, the company powering SuperBot, with Ankit Ruia in 2012. SuperBot was launched in 2018.
AI-driven communication agents such as SuperBot have a large market in India. Within its first year, SuperBot had brought on board more than 50 organisations across India. “We realised that this is a very big space that can easily be scaled,” says Mishra.
In the last financial year, they closed more than a million dollars in business and have recorded, on average, a two-time revenue growth every year. Bootstrapped and profitable from the start, they intend to raise funds in a few weeks. The bots have fluency in dialects and colloquialisms in eight regional languages and the company is working on several other languages, such as Gujarati, Kannada and Marathi.
“For us, the market is looking very good as, because of the pandemic, people have realised that they have to adopt technology to grow their business. What we offer is that, even if a business has a small use case, where they have just four people to handle inbound and outgoing calls, they can use the SuperBot system for greater efficiency and less cost,” says Mishra.
In November 2021, PTI reported a study by the State Bank of India (SBI) that showed that 80 per cent of the economy had become formalised after digitisation drives and the pandemic. The informal sector had shrunk to 15-20 per cent in 2021 from 52.4 per cent in 2018.
As technology such as SuperBot promises to have conversations with the client faster and with greater efficiency than humans, will it result in job losses in a market that’s already under stress after the pandemic?
“Our belief is that machines must do hard work while humans handle the smart work. Bots don’t have two things—empathy and common sense. No matter how big AI gets, there will always be a requirement for humans in every space. It is best to let the bot handle the hundreds of repetitive queries while, when it comes to counselling of students and helping them decide their career paths, humans must step in,” says Mishra.