Entrepreneurs are a peculiar breed – tenacious, sturdy-willed, and myopic of their imaginative and prescient to gain unicorn repute through whichever means viable. They are also very probable brave, venturing into the unknown minds and hearts of fickle consumers with a purpose to supply them some thing they didn’t think they wanted in the first place – it’s known as solving a ache factor.
It’s what made Uber what it's far nowadays, crucial in some methods. And it’s why the primary component a millennial does is put up #feelingawesome on their Facebook page while some thing ‘remarkable’ takes place. Defining this notable is a job for the dictionaries of the sector, however when it comes to marketers, you can wager the bank that the maximum amazing factor for them is their commercial enterprise; the product – which reigns supreme.
And it's miles with this concept in mind that Ankur Singla, Vishal Pal Chaudhury, Avinash Vankadaru, and Vishrut Chalsani, co-founders of the product previously known as Helpchat have rebranded to Tapzo – “an “all-in-one app” for the consumer and a advertising and marketing platform for our API companions,” in Ankur’s phrases. “The product stays exactly the same for the remaining one year. The rebranding changed into prompted due to purchaser remarks,” he's vehement in insisting.
Why the name alternate would be the maximum apparent query to invite at this point, but for Sequoia-sponsored Helpchat, nothing is as apparent because it seems. And, alternatively, its whole journey is an open e book.
From the primary time it came into the market, to the pivot to a chat-based answer and extra, the crew has had its honest proportion of notoriety. While this makes for remarkable drama, the deeper problems that need to be checked out, dissected, and understood are the need of the day – particularly in an emerging, developing startup surroundings including India wherein achievement memories are so few and failures are nevertheless not worn as badges of honour.
This is Inc42’s try to hint the adventure of a startup that has shown terrific promise in its many avatars and but can’t appear to make up its mind which avatar it desires to stick with.
The Akosha Pivot And The Haptik Controversy
Tapzo’s first generation was Akosha – started out in 2009 through as a complaint redressal forum wherein, quite without a doubt a user could go to the website, fill a form based on the type of complaint they had (legal, finance, government-related, consumer-related) and a price ticket could be generated for the same. The inbound crew would work on addressing the grievance whilst the criminal group might draft the documents required to post to the patron discussion board.
“We have continually wanted to remedy precise Indian problems,” says Ankur. “When we commenced Akosha in 2010, our vision turned into to construct a platform to assist customers getting their customer support issues resolved.” A very basic premise that nonetheless seemed to work as Ankur claimed in a blog post afterward.
The paid-subscription carrier turned into that of availing professional recommendation whilst the grievance become being addressed for decision. The startup obtained Seed investment from Sequoia Capital in 2011 to the music of $200K.
Coraza Technologies, the figure agency that ran Akosha additionally launched any other product called OneDirect, which become an ORM support tool for big manufacturers along with Aircel, Vodafone to name just of them and which turned into producing sales from the get move, because it too became a subscription-based totally version. OneDirect nonetheless functions as a separate entity in 2016, with an awful lot of the identical middle capabilities as whilst it started out.
The ache factor that was being solved – complaint redressal – took a new turn when the founders took a have a look at the way tech changed into being deployed. In December 2014, (after a $five Mn Series A funding from Sequoia Capital in July), the platform modified vision and decided to include statistics in addition to criticism/observe-up of their product on a talk on the cross foundation.
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“We take care of 3,20,000+ purchaser inquiries each month over web, and cellphone and we’re developing rapidly. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that our clients wanted us to head cellular,” he says.
While a great deal has been written approximately the Haptik-Akosha controversy (both of which had not anything to do with every different product-sensible, but which resulted in an animated blog conflict regarding said product), the question nonetheless remained – why the need to pivot when an existing enterprise version seemed to be working?
‘It’s All About Helping People Through Chat’
“I’d like to break this answer into parts,” he says. “Part one – we tech entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about tech. New tech is some thing that excites us mainly. When we looked at Facebook M which had also been released around that time and saw this idea of a talk-based totally messenger platform that did the whole thing (from making eating place reservations to booking a cab and more), the plain jump of logic become ‘permit’s do it. We felt that if a employer including Facebook changed into doing it, it became a demonstrated flow.’
And thus, the agency pivoted from an internet and cell-primarily based app to a chat-based platform in February 2015. The idea gained traction, a lot in order that the organization decided to recognition at the darling region of 2015 – hyperlocal and SMBs- in an effort to fulfil increasingly client desires beneath one platform.
Which brings us to the second part of the solution. “Let’s take Airtel as an example,” says Ankur.
“Suppose Airtel as a whole receives 2 Cr calls from customers – these purchasers have numerous issues they need solved. Something as small as my INR 10 recharge didn’t go through, to I want to peer what my balance is right now to what are the brand new schemes to be had in my area proper now. Complaints, as a whole formed a trifling 2% of these calls and queries. And we concept to ourselves, why cross after simply the 2% quantity of commercial enterprise whilst the other 98% is likewise ripe for the taking?”
Going after an multiplied extent of enterprise to cater to greater wishes of the customers intended that the center cause for Akosha’s life, the prison redressal forum became left without a vicinity inside the new version. The group of 8-9 humans have been permit cross quietly.
And a 10-member chat team took its region in March 2015. The new organization ‘Helpchat’ (fairly self-explanatory) focussed absolutely on the use of chat as a method of conversation with its customers and started out scaling. It added greater verticals to its current model and it scaled by including increasingly more participants to the team, to deal with the one-of-a-kind verticals.
“The imaginative and prescient at the back of Helpchat was to construct an all-in-one app which the consumer could use for more than one matters while not having to download so many apps. This is an acute hassle in India – maximum users with Android telephones run out of area and therefore maximum apps see a 80% uninstall charge within a pair months of installation. Our vision was to remedy this trouble,” says Ankur.
There Is No Such Thing As A Perfect PA
“Instead of connecting customers to corporations regarding simply court cases, we decided to connect them to corporations for all interactions: queries, provider requests, transactions etc. Since Akosha was strongly identified as a criticism platform, we modified the name to Helpchat to mirror what the new product turned into about. The thought become that this app could exist over a unmarried window chat interface. We also concept that to build sufficient training facts for our system gaining knowledge of algorithms to answer queries, we would scale up a manual chat interface,” says Ankur.
In order to achieve this form of scale, it additionally moved to Bengaluru, acqui-hired Niffler and onboarded offerings which includes laundry, delivery boys and many others. That allows you to become “The Perfect PA.”
The crew went from 10 members to round seven-hundred contributors (helped in element by the $16 Mn Series B invested by using Sequoia Capital) working at the premises at the same time as the agency beneath went but every other churn.
A Perfect PA delegates its work to others and so Helpchat started out partnering with startups in area of interest verticals such as DoorMint, Zomato and so forth. To fulfil the normal consumer desires, just in a different way.
The fag end of 2015 in India saw the startup environment undergo incredible upheaval in lots of sectors, consisting of and in particular hyperlocal, however Helpchat’s problems did no longer get away notice.
By October 2015, the company had more than 1,000 participants (a variety of disputed by means of Ankur) running completely on a chat-based platform – answering queries, making reservations, booking tickets, availing coupons and extra, the chat model too became scrapped. First, a team of one hundred was let move and then the relaxation of them a year later, along with a pleasant crew that existed completely to reveal the chat crew.
When caused to speak about the huge retrenchment Ankur says, albeit a bit tiredly, “Much has been fabricated from this circulate but right here is what passed off. It changed into our name centre people from Akosha who all were given absorbed into the new product team. Their primary process become to talk via chat. Online. In concept, it was a lovely concept. But, you have to recognize.
“These are 22-year-olds in a earnings bracket of INR 12K-INR 14K and their fundamental information of grammar and English isn't solid. We may want to educate them to talk a positive way within the call centre however when it came to chatting – typing, their schooling hampered schooling main to a terrible purchaser enjoy. For a product that turned into created to fulfil client needs, this turned into unacceptable.”
To team Helpchat it was patently clear – chat is slower than honestly tapping, it’s uni-directional like an IVR system and it has poor discovery (i.E. Indian users don’t understand what to type once they see a blank display screen.
From Chat To No-Chat AKA Tapzo
“We had been operating on Tapzo for the ultimate three hundred and sixty five days,” shares Ankur animatedly. “The decision to shut down the chat model become because chat is a beautiful use case globally, but in India, the entirety works in another way. The quantity of information retained from a single display screen is mind-boggling and we don’t even understand it.”
He explains the concept at the back of ‘TAP’zo this way – even as chatting extra taps are used to type out a query, “I need to order food” as an example. And the whole process takes pretty a bit of time to get sorted, a mean time of half-hour according to transaction.
Says Ankur, “With Tapzo, it’s all approximately the range of taps to get from point A to point B – from need to fulfilment. We focussed handiest on the person enjoy (it must be fast and reliable), best work with APIs of other apps for the fulfilment, optimise our app in order that it helps the consumer save cellphone space, statistics, and time.”
Tapzo guarantees to do all this and extra via the extraordinary categories to be had on the app – an “all-in-one,” as reiterated by means of Ankur. According to an professional statement, it's miles an app for excessive-frequency use cases. This could be whatever from finding high-quality gives, deals & coupons, reserving cabs/taxis & vehicles, ordering meals, recharging prepaid mobile & DTH, paying postpaid cellular bills, reading news, following & sharing trending, funny & viral testimonies, checking stay cricket scores and daily horoscope!
The abovementioned APIs have been included at the respective structures of its branding companions and make available all the vintage Helpchat use cases – answering queries, supplying offerings, availing transactions and more.
For instance, with Tapzo Cabs, it's far reportedly clean to ebook a cab in 3 faucets using the incorporated services of Ola, Uber, MegaTaxi, and SavaariRental even as recharges and bill bills can be finished thru Bill Desk.
“We have removed the chat element but the offerings supplied remain the same, subsequently the rebranding,” says Ankur. “We have created special factors of contact between the Tapzo team and our numerous companions to cope with any queries or complaints this is raised with the aid of a person. And if the equal can't be solved internally through us, we direct them to our accomplice website who will do the requisite for them.”
Account statistics and migration too, has been taken care of in the new API gadget – whichever manufacturers have already partnered with Helpchat and use their payment gateway, the records is robotically procured in-app (which includes price information/cab choice in the case of Tapzo Cabs or price records and eating place preference in the case of Swiggy, Freshmenu inside the meals class), to provide an immersive revel in to the customer.
“Every API on Tapzo works in another way of path, and there are nevertheless kinks which might be being worked out however our purpose is that allows you to solution the maximum queries with the aid of the app in the app and without delay,” says Ankur.
The aim is an formidable one and the app has seemingly shown traction.
“I suppose after dealing with the chat mission final 12 months, we had been lucky that we modified path quick earlier than spending too much capital. We have grown 13X on transactions on the grounds that January 2016 with our non-chat method. Today, close to 1,40,00 customers use our app each day and we do close to 55,000 transactions an afternoon with an annual run rate (ARR) of INR 210 crores in GMV/bookings. And we plan on developing 2X within the next six months.”
The numbers communicate for themselves, but the question now stays – names have staying strength and take a long term to sign in in humans’s memories. Changing it again and again again can be construed as a pass to confuse an already desensitised target audience of 350 Mn telephone users this is struggling with a flow closer to a cashless virtual financial system and would possibly welcome an app that says to do all of it.
But Ankur has the solution down pat for this one: “The name (Helpchat) turned into difficult for them since the product did now not have chat capability anymore and we did not want to confuse our subsequent 50 Mn customers just due to the fact our present day call become widely recognized to round 2 Mn-3 Mn users.”
As a startup, it's far imperative to remember that one is ‘starting off.’ This mechanically guarantees that there will be bumps alongside the street, the product will trade form, groups will come and move and the imaginative and prescient one started with is not the finalised product that goes out to a paying customer. This is the very nature of beginning a commercial enterprise.
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Tapzo too has passed through its fair share of iterations, a chief pivot, a call change (usually risky) and now some other rebranding amidst raising hundreds of thousands of greenbacks (it raised a Series C in September 2016), courted controversy and retrenchment even as attaining a few kind of PMF and the team appears unapologetic because it is going approximately looking to get lower back to its vision of building a product that every one of India could use.
Will the call trade be remembered because the comeback story of a scrappy corporation looking for its footing, will the brand new Tapzo succeed after incorporating seven years of learnings into one big basket or do we be seeing another rebranding, a brand new pivot or a product within the months to return – nicely, that stays to be seen.
What may be concluded, is concluded high-quality via Sunny Sharma, ex-VP of Enterprise Solutions at Akosha and Helpchat,
“If one desires to survive in a startup, they need to be comfy with masses of u.S.A.And downs. To prevail, one must preserve adapting to the brand new realities of the marketplace, I additionally ended up honing my team control and people development skills all through my stint there. Personally, I love demanding situations, ambiguity and modifications.”
And if there's ever a adventure that has encompassed demanding situations, ambiguity, and adjustments it's miles Tapzo – and it still looks to have a honest way to move.