Today, we celebrate five years of unparalleled innovation in the voice AI space. We believe that each interaction between a business and its customers is an opportunity to create something remarkable.
Brief us about your venture? How has been the journey?
We started off with a simple conversation with a farmer and quickly understood that the multilingual barrier for rural banking users, coupled with the communication issues on call centres, would require multilingual voice technologies to address India’s language problem. We launched Skit five years ago, with its AI-based voice automation platform – Vernacular Intelligent Voice Assistant (VIVA). VIVA helps enterprises improve engagement strategies by utilizing speech recognition and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology. With over 10 million hours of training data, VIVA has been deployed to help enterprises boost customer stickiness and loyalty through a deep understanding of the customer’s context and intent. Skit was founded in 2016 by IIT Roorkee alumnus, Akshay Deshraj and I. In a short span of time, we catapulted to one of the leading voice AI companies, globally. This serves as a testament to our remarkable journey of market highs and wins.
How has your experience been so far as Skit completes five years of unparalleled innovation in the voice automation space?
We anticipated that businesses would eventually need easy automation solutions, especially over voice, to offer fast, contactless and immersive experiences to customers, now more than ever. We believe that each interaction between a business and its customers is an opportunity to create something remarkable. Using our core technology, we want to introduce the future of customer experiences to the world.
The experience has been truly incredible so far, and continues to surprise us as we move forward in our journey. With this achievement, we want to further align our goals as we propel Skit to the next level of growth and innovation. To mark five years of innovation across artificial intelligence and voice technologies, we have embarked on a path to bolster the company’s global presence to offer flawless voice interactions to a wider demographic. We have opened our United States headquarters in New York City, and will continue to operate India headquarters out of Bangalore. For the past five years, we have been working towards introducing innovative, personalised solutions to the market that help not only businesses but also their end-consumers. At Skit, we were able to achieve this milestone with the help of our dedicated teams and our customer-centric approach to solving each problem.
Could you tell us a little bit about Skit’s inception and growth journey?
Founded in 2016, by Akshay and me, Skit was built to solve the problems of the ‘next 500 million internet users’. A conversation with a farmer, who had to travel 10 km every day to translate texts received from banks, led us to launch Skit. Many others in the village faced similar issues around support and communications. After months of research and development, we came upon the idea, to empower locals and equip enterprises to cater to the non-English speaking population of the country. Being an AI-first SaaS voice automation company, our suite of speech and language solutions enable enterprises to automate their call centre operations, while helping consumers interact in a language and tonality that they are comfortable with.
How much has Skit raised in its Series B round and what is the capital currently being used for?
We have recently raised USD 23 Million from Westbridge Capital, with participation from Kalaari Capital and Exfinity Ventures, Angelist Syndicate led by Aaryaman Vir Shah from Prophetic Ventures, LetsVenture Syndicate led by Sense AI and IAN Fund. The fresh capital will be used for sales and marketing, building delivery capabilities, R&D to speed up innovation and further enhance the company’s products while expanding globally. It will help enhance Skit’s voice technology, developing personalised solutions. In India, the capital will be used to boost sales numbers – we have had win ratios of 100%, i.e., we have won every deal we have participated in so far. Our aim is to ensure a smooth delivery cycle to deploy the solution while we improve our product and technology to be the best in the segment. Additionally, in Southeast Asia and the US we are investing in expansion. We want to double down and scale operations in both Indian and global markets. We are also planning on increasing our employee headcount. Through our new headquarters in New York, we want to build a strong customer base in America by making our product available to US enterprises. Since our previous funding round, we have grown over 4x, both in terms of revenue and customer-base, while growing our team by over 6x to prepare for the next level of innovation and product evolution.
What are the USPs and features of Skit’s core voice technology and its nuances? How is it helping enterprises boost CSAT scores and ROI?
Our suite of speech and language solutions, VIVA enable enterprises to automate 90% their call center operations while at the same time save costs. With over 10 million hours of training data, our product – Vernacular Intelligent Voice Assistant (VIVA) is the leading voice AI platform and can currently respond in 16+ languages, covering over 160 dialects while replicating human-like conversations. Voice AI, unlike other self-service channels, understands speaker intent and can translate other unique speech characteristics that enable smoother and more efficient query resolution and response at customer contact centers. Deeper understanding of speaker characteristics enables hyper-personalization of customer calls, helping reach solutions and resolve issues with ease. We have also observed that there is a huge need for customer contact centres to support intelligent, human-like, hyper-personalised calls with the customer which our solution provides. Our clients and investors have both recognized the uniqueness and superiority of our product and they continue to show confidence in our growth path. We are using voice bot innovation and our market observations to personalise caller experiences at customer contact centers, and deliver upto 50% cost reduction and superior customer experience
What are the plans for Skit’s new headquarter in NYC? What is the addressable market opportunity Skit is looking at in the US?
The global contact center market size is expected to grow steadily and reach a value of $496 billion by 2027. To address this sizable growth, we at Skit are using our proprietary voice AI platform (VIVA) to personalise caller experiences at customer contact centers, and deliver upto 50% cost reduction and superior customer experience. We want to capture and embody our voice platform as a whole, apart from extensive language support. This will allow us to advance our future vision and introduce the future of customer experience to the world. To that end, our vision is to become a global voice AI company.
We have expanded to the US because it is a mature market, ahead in technology adoption with a level-playing field for strong competition. The benefits that VIVA offers will have a tremendous impact on customer service. VIVA provides personalised experiences as they get better at resolving different and varied queries for the customers. A personalised experience can deliver 5 to 8 times the ROI on marketing spend. Personalization is important in the age of intelligence and automation; customers want to be valued and they recognize it only when businesses spend time understanding them and improving their service. Our product delivers personalised experiences that match the unique desires of individual users thus enhancing customer experience while at the same time improving contact center efficiency. Also, VIVA has sentiment analysis to understand the caller’s context, intent and mood to enhance customer experience.
Which are the partners, clients and companies currently using Skit’s technology? What are the company’s key focus sectors, and global market presence like?
We work together with industry leaders and have more strategic collaborations in the pipeline. Our current partners include Avaya, Cisco, Genesys and Microsoft. While they continue to support us in India and Southeast Asian markets, we expect to continue with them for the US markets while further expanding our partner portfolio. Currently, we are working with over 25 large enterprise clients across diverse sectors such as banking and finance, insurance, securities, NBFCs, food and beverage, ecommerce, travel and tourism, including Axis Bank, Hathway and Barbeque Nation.
Could you throw light on Skit’s major milestones achieved in the last few years?
In May 2020, we secured our Series A funding of USD 5.1 million. We recently raised a Series B round of USD 23 million and we have grown to over 200 employees. The company has been featured as one of the top-notch start-ups in the Cisco Launchpad’s Cohort 6, and is a part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Innovators Community. We have also been listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia start-ups 2021 for our remarkable industry innovation, and recently been awarded ‘Tech Startup of the Year’ in Artificial Intelligence 2021 by Entrepreneur India, further underscoring our market dominance and unparalleled expertise. We are now doubling down on our expansion to the United States and have also expanded to other markets in a bid to take our unique platform to global enterprises, while entrenching our presence in India.
What are your further expansion plans?
Currently, we are going to expand our footprints across global multilingual markets, including the United States and South East Asian regions. As we make headway into international geographies, we are also hiring aggressively to bring in a team of talented professionals to drive Skit’s growth and visions across these crucial markets.
What new projects are in Skit’s pipeline?
We have a series of strategic partnerships in the works with leading BFSI, hospitality and ecommerce companies, among others, and are currently working on our Idiolect Layer to further improve personalisation elements across voice operations. This product upgrade will introduce a deeper layer of understanding, helping fluent conversations take place with minimal escalations, replicating the emotional intelligence of a human.
Our Idiolect Layer allows VIVA to create a unique customer profile in real-time based on an individual’s speech attributes (age, vocals, gender, eagerness, dialect, pace, etc.). This rich understanding, in turn, helps VIVA personalize communication by adjusting its response, tone, and speech patterns while engaging with a customer. It allows businesses to now be able to deliver a better customer experience via voice AI to the end customer and also offers higher CSAT scores. The layer is constantly learning and upgrading to meet the new-age behaviour metrics and become more humane in terms of engagement and approach.
Idiolect is formally explained as speech habits peculiar to a particular person. While communicating, we use our understanding of these habits and patterns to derive an appropriate style along with content, which then goes out as our response. Our engine understands various aspects of a caller’s idiolect, including latent factors along with the regular lexical components needed for regular Spoken Language Understanding (SLU). This understanding, along with the semantics collected from SLU, helps in generating a response that is more natural as compared to what a plain SLU loop is capable of.
Source: Business World