7 Oct 2020
Uniphore: Implementing conversational AI as a leverage to the post-coronavirus world

    As the COVID-19 pandemic has totalled business functions across the world, companies are looking for cost-effective pivoting tools which will help them get right back on track. The changes have trickled down on the BPO industry, which has brought conversational AI startup Uniphore right to the forefront.

    According to Uniphore's founders, even when there is a slight indication of an economic downturn- be it the 9/11 tragedy or the 2008 economic recession, the BPO traffic across the world goes up way beyond the projections. People tend to call their banks, insurance companies and hospitals a lot more. However, the pandemic has brought about a new challenge as the BPO workers are forced to work from their homes. The call centre industry operates on a business model which can never be remote, and the pandemic situation has served a huge impact on the industry. This is where Uniphore comes into action.

    About the company

    Uniphore has offices in the US, India and Singapore and provides business with a platform that changes the way companies engage with their customer base, increase efficiencies and build loyalty. The company’s clientele includes BNP Paribas, PNB-MetLife and NTT Data.

    The company was founded by Ravi Saraogi and Umesh Sachdev almost 12 years back, in 2008. It uses voice AI to bridge the gap between people and machines. The platform provided by the company includes conversational automation, conversational assistant, analytics, security aimed at transforming the mode of engagement between companies and their customers.

    A systemic change in customer engagement

    The company claims that the BPO industry, although facing a multifold increase in demand, is being forced to scale down their operations due to the ongoing pandemic crisis. This has sparked the need for a conversational AI medium to plug the holes. Although there is a certain degree of uncertainty, companies are now scrambling to implement AI to automate its business.

    With John Chambers on board as an investor and a mentor, Uniphore began to plan for the incoming impact and it began to track the COVID-19 crisis.

    The realisation of the COVID-19 threat

    Uniphore noticed that some of its clients in Asia were postponing or delaying new rollouts, which became a stinging matter of concern for the company. They became aware that something was brewing in Asia. Adding to that, the companies weren’t disclosing any reason for their delay in product rollout. Uniphore had to start planning.

    Eventually, multiple clients came to Uniphore with an SOS call: implementing AI technology faster to rebuild the bridge between the customers and the company as soon as possible, when they realised that there would be a major surge in traffic in the upcoming months.

    The COVID-19 impact

    The priority for Uniphore was to hunker down and analyse the situation. The company has employees across 10 countries, and it quickly decided to shift to the telecommute operation model. By March, even before the countries across the world announced a complete lockdown, the company was already functioning remotely. They accounted for every employee and proceeded ahead with full steam when they were assured of the fact that the market needed Uniphore's platform.

    The company established two specific points of focus it needed to concentrate on. First was the preservation of their workforce, their existing clientele relations, revenue and keeping the business functional. Once these objectives were met, the company proceeded to look for opportunities where their business will flourish. They started gauging the demand for their platform. The company assured its clients that they could implement their platform and worry about contracts on a later date.

    The company's R&D team went to task. It started from scratch, figuring out what the customer needed. It quickly repurposed its conversational AI technology which could now be focussed to accelerate sales and build customer relations.

    The team also ensured that their AI could check whether the call centre agent was talking to the right customer, and came up with a real-time AI product that can monitor calls using speech-to-text technology. It could also determine the quality of engagement, which completely changed the way Uniphore’s product was sold.

    Even when events and conferences dropped down to zero and digital marketing was the only mode available, Uniphore won six new clients- all of them being large conglomerates, back in March. It is also slated to sign up another six new customers by this quarter- all remotely.

    Conclusion- The future ahead

    Uniphore, at present, has 22 customers and has accumulated more than $60 million in funds. It boasts of a 310-member team, with 250 employees from India. The company is yet to disclose revenues, but sources reveal that the company is close to earning $20 million.

    Last year, Grandview Research projected the BPO Industry’s expanse value to be at $221.5 billion. This is set to grow exponentially during the ongoing crisis. Added to that, VCs and investors have a huge degree of liquidity and are willing to invest in sustainable business, as opposed to the 2008 crisis.

    It is business as usual in Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Vietnam. Companies in Singapore and Malaysia are slowly opening up as well. The company also believes that business will be robust in the US. Even though many business sectors have been badly hit, others such as utilities, telecom companies, insurance providers, hospitals and digital companies are witnessing a sudden surge in call centre traffic.