Cloud Telephony Emerging as Major Enabler of New Business Trends: Exotel

Voice, video to be preferred communication medium in the future

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Shivakumar Ganeshan, Founder and CEO Exotel

Exotel is one of Southeast Asia's largest cloud telephony companies. The aim is to help large businesses streamline and bring efficiency to their voice communication.

Exotel takes away some of the biggest pain points of traditional systems such as EPABXs and PBXs, and allow businesses to use world-class APIs to build a reliable communication system.

Shivakumar Ganeshan, Founder and CEO Exotel, talks to Pradeep Chakraborty about the mission to build the best-in-class voice products that power the companies of today and tomorrow. Excerpts:

BW CIO: How are you looking at voice analytics in the current scenario?

Shivakumar Ganeshan: Voice and video are going to overtake typing as a preferred medium of communication in the coming years. This is something we have been noticing over the last six years, and the uptake of voice for communication is moving upwards and to the right.

Lots of companies that work with us, including Quikr, use voice as the primary mode to reach out to customers. This makes it all the more important to ensure that analytics based on voice is accurate and can add to the intelligence of operations, thereby improving efficiency.

One of the projects that we worked on a couple of years ago was a hackathon to understand the sentiment analysis in phone conversations. This becomes very important especially in the case of customer conversations that need to be automatically escalated based on the sentiment on the customers. An irate customer would like to speak to a manager or a person in-charge without waiting for someone to get back to them.

We were able to achieve this sentiment prediction with an accuracy of 70 percent. This is a great starting point considering the level of complexity this problem poses in India. There are multiple accents, different languages, ambient noise, etc. that contribute to the difficulty of the issue.

Voice is here to stay and grow and we will be at the forefront of it.

BW CIO: How did the acquisition of Croak.it helped the company grow?

Shivakumar Ganeshan: Croak.it, a voice recognition-based social media platform, was our first acquisition. It was an interesting platform like Twitter for voice. We saw synergies from the angle of integrating short voice communication for businesses.

BW CIO: What are the latest developments in the research division at Exotel Labs?

Shivakumar Ganeshan: Voice in India is a huge opportunity. It is still the most natural form of communication. We started Exotel Labs to tackle some of the most unique problems to India in the voice space.

At Exotel Labs, we concentrated on the smaller nuances of communication like reducing background noise during voice conversation to detecting speech inputs and emotions during calls, etc. The idea is to algorithmically mine data out of voice signals, which is largely untapped now.

We are looking to collaborate with universities and research facilities to help spearhead voice communication research from an ecosystem perspective.

BW CIO: How is cloud telephony becoming the backbone for effective and economical communication?

Shivakumar Ganeshan: Every enterprise needs a reliable way to talk to their customers, send SMS, analyse customer conversations, and solve critical communication issues. Exotel has made it possible for these large organisations to focus on their core business offering without having to worry about the communication infrastructure.

We offer APIs that help companies manage their customer communication over calls and SMSes. In addition, it is also possible to automate and integrate with their existing systems like CRM, Helpdesk, etc.

Today, when someone thinks of setting up a server, no one thinks of an on-premise solution. Cloud computing has brought about that change. In a similar way, in a few year’s time, nobody will think of setting up telephony solutions using boxes and wires. Cloud telephony will be the norm because it is the more economical way to manage calls and also the most efficient way.

I am sure, we will be at the forefront of this change.

BW CIO: Explain how does Exotel ensures the number anonymity and safety of the caller?

Shivakumar Ganeshan: A big part of our lives has moved online. Be it ordering groceries, booking movie tickets, ordering food, date, watching movies or networking, making friends and following passions, we do a bunch of things online today. Phone numbers have become our identity on the Internet to use a lot of these services.

Therefore, safeguarding the privacy of these users have become responsibility of every business. Exotel makes this possible through our number anonymization or number masking service.

Calls between riders and drivers, delivery personnel and customers, etc., are routed via an Exotel virtual number which eliminates the need for either party to know each other’s phone number.

BW CIO: How will smart communication solutions, like cloud telephony, make it easier to cater to the massive number of people across various sectors?

Shivakumar Ganeshan: As a B2B tech platform, Exotel has been a behind the scenes ecosystem enabler, with a clientele of over 1,500 businesses in India, including brands like: Uber, Flipkart, Ola, Quikr, and Practo, among others.

Cloud telephony is emerging as a major enabler of new business trends for both established businesses and start-ups. It can be regarded as a solution that intersects service and scale.

Cloud telephony can be an asset for every business, no matter what niche they are in. Here are a few ways to leverage this technology:

Cab Aggregators -- Exotel works with some of the largest cab aggregators in Asia including Ola, Uber and GoJek, to enable number masking also known as number anonymisation. What this means is that people who hail cabs and the drivers can talk to each other without knowing or accessing each other’s numbers.

Given the importance of this solution in increasing customer trust, this played an important role in their growth story as well. Last year, we helped cab aggregators safeguard the privacy of 30 million people in the country.

E-commerce AgroStar - A mobile-commerce platform is using Exotel through which farmers can procure raw material by giving a simple missed call. Given the massive penetration of mobile phones in these regions, more than 7 lakh farmers across Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan benefitted from their services since 2012.

Logistics - One of the largest courier companies in India was incurring losses due to a poor first time delivery rate, especially for cash on delivery (COD) orders. This was due to a variety of reasons including the non-availability of the customer, the delivery person not showing up, etc. And there was no way to verify what really happened.

The solution to this was a standard operating procedure they put in place. The delivery person had to make a call to the customer when they show up for delivery. And this call could be tracked because it was routed via Exotel.

Education - Pratham Books used Exotel’s cloud telephony technology for their “Missed Call Do, Kahaani Suno” campaign. Through a simple IVR, kids could listen a story in a language of their choice. And this happened at no cost to the children.

Healthcare - YourDOST, an online counselling platform used Exotel to connect their clients and counsellors during their three-day Fired2Firedup campaign wherein the counsellors could take the calls from wherever they were. The idea behind this campaign was also to ensure the complete anonymity of the callers and get them to open up without having to reveal their identity.

BW CIO: Please shed some light on the growth and adoption of cloud telephony on the Indian and SEA markets?

Shivakumar Ganeshan: For Exotel, India is and has always been our primary market, but we are holistically expanding into South-East Asian markets. When we were thinking of our expansion plans, we wanted to target markets similar to the one we are used to.

In terms of culture and the size of the market in terms of population, Southeast Asia seemed like a perfect fit and was a logical choice for us.

Uber-isation start-ups in the logistics, e commerce and travel is happening at an incredible pace. The profile of the start-ups in our area of interest - cab aggregators, e-commerce, third-party logistics and marketplaces are also very similar to those in India. Exotel fits very well in the middle of this growth and expansion.

We are currently working with a lot of enterprises that require a strong tech support system such as the marketplace businesses, where Exotel connects buyers and sellers, as well as those that deal with third-party logistics and require Exotel’s popular number anonymization service, such as e-commerce, cabs and others.

We presently have some prominent clients in these markets like Property Guru, Lazada, Practo, GoJek amongst others.

The Exotel’s infrastructure has been designed in such a way that the call quality and reliability will be far superior for the local market and that is where our USP lies.


Tags assigned to this article:
voice video APIs Customer Communications exotel

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