Please walk us through your entrepreneurial journey and background before you started? Any interesting stories?
Being Baby, a service for subscribing to baby products based on weekly / monthly consumption was as a part of an experimentation to understand the start-up eco-system and Indian clientele, which was initiated in April 2014. The idea came from a personal problem at that time experienced by Snehal Dhruve. The problem of keeping track of baby diaper sizes, clothes sizes, appropriate / in appropriate toys to be bought to facilitate effective baby growth when the main task of the parent should be to enjoy precious moments with their newborn and cherishing them as well. So while on his flight from New York to Bombay after being a tech savvy / assisted parent and fresh recent experience from his 6 month old daughter decided to embark on this trial. The pilot was quick on the feet. A small table sitting outside a Gynac with some product offerings as subscriptions to expected mothers. He spoke to 10 mothers during a doctor’s 2 hours of consulting time and was able to convenience 2 mothers a paying customers. One mother subscribed for Rs. 2500/- diaper subscription package & other for Rs. 5500/- for a newborn essential kit. Snehal quickly built E-commerce website to receive orders & also a network of suppliers to product fulfilment.
Bineet was pulled in as a trusted family member in May 2014 (Brother-in-law) to advice on local regulations, brainstorm on ideas from time to time & a veteran in managing two of his kids. The team was made up of Snehal & his wife as core members.
Part of running the business was doing exhibitions and connecting with parents during which our what’s app numbers were shared if they had any further queries. But chat became a primary medium or receiving orders & customer service medium. As part of this journey was introduced to pitch to Venture Nursery where Snehal met Dr. Apoorv Sharma.
The business with limited marketing was servicing 40 monthly subscribers around December 2014 but Snehal sabbatical ended and had to move back to US for his earlier commitments. In the meantime a business head was appointed to manage the business and the resource didn’t stick for a longer period and in December 2014 it was decided to scale back and it was announced to customers that we will be back as we are upgrading our platform.
During the course of executing orders, they discovered that people were most comfortable interacting & placing an order over chat. So chat as the most valued medium of interaction was established.
Also both the co-founders had full time jobs at the time of launching being baby & which is why they could not grow it beyond a certain stage. In Feb 2015, they decided to take this initiative to a wider market & not restrict it to baby products. Go Hero Go was conceptualized with the task of providing concierge services for a range of products & was publicly launched in July 2015, with both the promoters devoting 100% of their time to this venture. In August 2015, the founders evaluated the business considering various data points related to business, data availability, API accesses, profitability, turnover & market size & came to the conclusion that it was best to focus on a mature segment like travel, given the pain points an ordinary traveller faces. The team pivoted from a concierge services for ordering anything to specific focus on the travel segment in August 2015. Since then the team has been focusing on all products in the travel space, relevant to a traveller.
After successfully establishing the travel segment, the team ventured out to explore the power of conversational e-commerce thru chatbots powered by artificial intelligence in other verticals like influencer – fan engagement segment. This is when superfan.ai was added as a vertical in July 2016.
About founding team
Snehal Dhruve – Co-founder & CEO Linkedin Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/snehaldhruve Education: Masters in Engineering Management, Syracuse University, NY, USA & Bachelors in Biomedical Engineering from Mumbai University Experience: He has worked on A.I. based technologies for the last 10 years in US with Fortune 500 companies like Credit Suisse, RBS, KPMG, Mercedes Benz, Goldman Sachs & has tech expertise in Big Data, AI, API, iOS and Android.
He has excelled & demonstrated success in the chosen paths from time to time. Worked in consulting space for past 4 and half years which his primary role was client relationship, project management & implementation with minimal prior background or know how and deliver successful projects valued more than $20M. His career started at Mercedes Benz and soon he released the market opportunities in a career at any financial institution. Joined Credit Suisse in HR capacity, quickly moved to a Trading Analyst role on the trading floor to a Trading Assistant in less than 2 months to a Project Manager for the trading floor and help build break through proprietary algorithms and risk management systems. Snehal is passionate to build creative breakthrough products and has been an avid frequent traveller.
At KPMG his role was a Program / Project Manager Senior consultant working on both Business strategy & Technology implementations. One of the projects at a top global telecom client was assist in building big data based products which can be offered as end products to their B2B clients. The task was to understand the derived value of data and how it can be used on building solutions for Marketing, Business Operational Efficiencies, Understanding Customer Behaviours & Sentiments to achieve smart product recommendations / up selling opportunities to achieve higher revenues. This project was valued at $20M as multiple consulting firms were involved closely working with client’s internal deployment team. Snehal was leading this effort from KPMG who were in charge for Managing & Execution of this project. His role was to work with multiple teams to coordinate, build execution strategies using sample of terabytes of data sets and derive as possible recommendations for product offerings. Eventually working with the development team to build, deploy & client management.
Another project was for another global telecom client to apply machine learning to understand power consumption across network sites across US and how to can help achieve effective sustainability using internet of things devices located in these sites.
Very recent project at a Global Investment & Asset Management client was to understand the capital markets regulatory framework and assist in building a suggestive as well as predictive algorithms using historical & real time trade flow patterns to determine any potential noncompliance or fraud by any employee personals during the course of trades. One thing to note in the project was it actually started as a simple trade flow audit work which blew up into building high end algorithms seeing my capability to ingest front to back trade flows and highlight some inconsistency and coming up with the recommendation to build this solution.
Bineet Desai – CFO & Head – Business Development Linkedin Profile: https://in.linkedin.com/pub/bineet-desai/28/248/805 Education: Bineet holds a degree in Masters in Management Studies (Finance major) from Narsee Munjee Institute of Management Studies & is a graduate in Commerce from University of Mumbai. He also holds a Diploma in Business Finance (D.B.F.) from the Institute Of Chartered Financial Analyst Of India (I.C.F.A.I.) & AMFI Certification from the Association of the Mutual Funds in India . Experience: Bineet began his career as the Network Manager – Banking & Finance with a pharmaceutical company, Bharat Serums & Vaccines Ltd., followed by relationship management & credit analysis stints with ICICI Bank & ABN Amro Bank in Mumbai.
He also held senior managerial positions of team leader & Unit head with Standard Chartered Bank, Dubai, UAE & Mashreq Bank, Dubai, UAE from 2006-2009 where he was working on business development in the Small & Medium enterprises & retail banking.
He then moved back to India & again joined Standard Chartered Bank, Mumbai. He was quickly promoted to being Director & Segment Head for Corporates & was also the Global Account Manager for certain business houses. After spending 5 years in this role with Standard Chartered, he then moved on to join Synapse Advisory Ventures, a Dubai based investment bank & was responsible for working on strategic partnerships with state level corporations in Africa. Bineet has been in business development and managing corporate & retail relationships thru-out his career.
Bineet is passionate about travelling and spending time with his family. He usually takes various short trips within India over long weekends & explores at least one new place in the world every year in May with his family. He applies his knowledge of travel to various destinations by acting as an expert destination manager in his interactions with his customers, suggesting suitable itineraries to his customers. His target is to complete seeing the world in the next 10-12 years before he grows old.
Both the co-founders have been part of well paying jobs with Fortune 500 companies over the last 10-15 years having work experience across product verticals & geographies.
Both the founders are full time employed with HeroLabs Infotech.
Tell us little about your product/ platform
SuperFan.Ai revolutionises the way an influencer connects with his audience using a personal chat bot. It lets influencers simply chat to their fans directly one-on-one, like they would with any of their friends using artificial intelligence (AI). Superfan.ai provides a personal connect by Influencers with their followers using AI. Our core engine is a chat platform powered by artificial intelligence using NLP. Our Work Recently, we have worked with Balaji Telefims Ltd for their movie “A Flying Jatt” by Bombay Times on Sunday as “Bollywoods 1st Bot makes its debut with A Flying Jatt” ( https://www.google.co.in/amp/m.timesofindia.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/B-Towns-first-movie-bot- makes-its-entry-with-A-Flying-Jatt/amp_articleshow/53570139.cms?client=safari ) This bot has a user base of >42,000 users and ~ 2 lac conversations since the bots release in mid-August 2016 (~15 days) About our bots Our chatbots can engage and automate conversations with end-users at scale on a one-on-one basis, across messaging & chatplatforms. Our tool allows any influencer with an engaged community around his/her passion to connect individually with his audience. The bot essentially allows : a 1-0-1 & 2-way connect / communication with the follower – giving fans & followers a voice to interact with the influencer & helping the influencer find & thank their true & ardent followers. It helps an influencer to increase engagement with their audiences & convert “at-risk” fans into “superfans”, thus increasing his own brand value. It enables an influencer to send the right message to the right audience at the right time thru demographic, location & other details available (as opposed to 65% of the time message is lost in the feed) to the influencer thru back-end statistics provided. Advanced Bot Analytics The superfan.ai dashboard lets clients view charts and graphs on their follower demographics, locations, engagement levels etc. so they can hone in on their most important followers. The chatbots put the fun back into interactions. Also, Chat data is also analytics gold mine. Identifying what people really want through their queries is what makes chat bots an ideal tool for engagement. Many Companies have been working with us on data analytics to achieve their strategic goals. Beyond our general analytics offerings, take advantage of machine learning and advanced statistical methods to improve your content & engagement. We’ll show you the most interesting conversations that you’ve had with your audience and break down the common responses to the questions your bot asks. We’ll arm you with the tools necessary to both dig deep into conversations or to get a high-level view of how your content is performing & audience engagement. The beauty of our bots is they’re dynamic. They can provide filters that then route individuals to the right information and then proactively respond when new information is available. These bots can ultimately replace personal websites, provide a new way to contact people, and could save countless hours to filter through requests and inquiries from fans & followers and respond personally to each such question. The bot ultimately converts an your followers into customers. Superfan.ai helps build deeper relationships in every step of your journey. Our Target market Any influencer who wants to connect with his audience directly & thereby increasing his engagement level with his followers is our direct client. The influencer could be a celebrity, production house(movies, tv shows), sports personalities, sports teams, political influencers, political parties, individual artists, etc.
Tell us about your customer traction
Recently, we have worked with Balaji Telefims Ltd for their movie “A Flying Jatt” by Bombay Times on Sunday as “Bollywoods 1st Bot makes its debut with A Flying Jatt” (https://www.google.co.in/amp/m.timesofindia.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/B-Towns-first- movie-bot-makes-its-entry-with-A-Flying-Jatt/amp_articleshow/53570139.cms?client=safari )
This bot has a user base of >42,000 users and ~ 2 lac conversations since the bots release in mid-August 2016 (~15 days) Apart from this, we are working on the following domains :
- Radio Channel
- Govt Department
- Saloon Brand
- Performing Artists
- 5 Movies
How has been your association with IBM Global Entrepreneur? How important do you think IBM Global Entrepreneur is to help and improve the ecosystem?
“Our association with IBM-GEP has been very beneficial for our startup. It has helped build a market fit product sooner than the traditional methods and the availability of cutting edge tools makes our daily lives easier.”
Helping us focus on driving business and without the worry about infrastructure to scale our tech. It has given us consulting on how to build amazing solutions and assisted us in clearing roadblocks on multiple occasions.
What’s your take on the IBM Cloud? How is it helping your start-up grow?
We use Bluemix extensively which allows us to model our solution quickly on a stable infrastructure. Bluemix allows us to build scalable solutions at ease. Some services like Watson work as a core pillar for our product which would have taken years for us to build something similar of our own.
What is your road ahead for your start-up?
It would be our endeavour to continue to be the market leaders in the chatbot vertical In India & explore markets offshore as well. We will continue to invest increasing resources in product development & technology automation.