Bengaluru-based tech startup Vahan has developed a customizable, intuitive, Artificial Intelligence-driven virtual assistant that operates through messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to deliver a range of support to a large workforce targeting companies like Flipkart and Club Mahindra with the ultimate aim of improving sales performance and end-customer experience.
Around 1 billion frontline workers serve in the ride-sharing, delivery and logistics, retail, banking and hospitality industries, globally. For companies heavily dependent on this workforce to deliver services to the end customer, employee engagement at scale is critical. But how do you engage and support thousands of employees who are spread across thousands of kilometres in multiple locations and fluent in different regional languages?
“We are building Siri for the workforce, a virtual assistant for workers to improve engagement and productivity. The assistant is conversation-based and allows the user to talk to it in natural language in text or voice,” says Co-founder of Vahan, Mohammed Abdoolcarim, a Stanford University engineer who was product lead on Siri, Apple’s AI-driven assistant software.
The company has partnered with companies like Flipkart and Club Mahindra to cater to the varied needs of their large geographically distributed workforce. With services like announcements, sentiment surveys, training, automated FAQ and HR related support and more, Vahan’s virtual assistant – available in five major vernacular languages – has already reached around 30,000 employees in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
“Around 96% of smartphone users in India are on WhatsApp, which includes frontline workers who form the base of businesses in delivery, logistics, retail and hospitality. By building our tech into an existing app, we’ve made it easier for these workers to be able to access our service without having to download another app,” says Vahan Co-founder and CEO Madhav Krishna, a Machine Learning Engineer from Columbia University who has worked in multiple successful technology companies in New York.
Vahan has been working with Flipkart to provide personalised training to each individual based on their mistakes as identified through customer feedback on the Flipkart app. A Flipkart senior management executive said the company had seen a significant increase in customer satisfaction ratings after using Vahan’s assistant. He added that there has been immense buzz and excitement about Vahan in delivery hubs and a never-before-seen adoption with any other learning or engagement product. A Flipkart delivery executive told Vahan he had learnt a lot from the app especially with customer-facing issues like how to make deliveries, how to wish the customers, and how to speak to them.
In the case of Club Mahindra, the platform is being used for specialised skill building of their sales executives. “Today, there is no shortage of technology providers, however, with Vahan we have experienced a high degree of expertise and engagement right from need identification, and customised content development to seamless deployment,” says Sidhant Kashiva, Corporate Manager – Learning & Development at Club Mahindra.
In the past year, Vahan has raised investment from Gokul Rajaram, ex-Google Executive, Mekin Maheshwari, ex-CPO of Flipkart, and Vir Kashyap, Co-Founder at Babajob.
“By 2020, India’s workforce will grow to around 900 million. We need to be ready for this future with skilled people who can deliver at a global standard,” says Abdoolcarim. “In the next five years, Vahan’s goal is to reach 15 million distributed workers across the globe. We want to help close the economic gap and change lives for the better.”