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Why these IIT Madras alumni decided to tap into the D2C activation segment with BusinessOnBot

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Friends and teammates of IIT Madras Mohit Kumar, Aditya Chintapalli and Kirushanth Kumar realized amid the COVID-19 pandemic that two things had seen a significant recovery: the growth of D2C brands and the rise of social commerce , especially on WhatsApp.

This led the trio to found the headquarters of San Francisco. BusinessOnBot in 2020. The SaaS platform enables D2C businesses to build a loyal user base from scratch through its sales, user acquisition and retention tools on WhatsApp. Along with building WhatsApp stores and supporting vernacular languages, the platform acts as a one-stop solution for SMEs and brands to drive sales and user acquisition on WhatsApp.

“We have spent time chatting with the owners and founders of D2C companies for months to understand the weak spots and where we can add value,” said Mohit.

One of the initial challenges the founders faced was bringing the revenue-generating angle for D2C businesses to WhatsApp rather than just customer support.

Challenges

“We were able to overcome this initial challenge with the help of internal commerce AI and proprietary marketing automation to automate WhatsApp stores with Indian language support. It took us a year to understand the D2C enterprise market and build a product around it while training business AI in the vernaculars, ”says Mohit.

Mohit and Kirushantha were previously Product Managers at Kotak Mahindra Bank, while Aditya was Data Scientist at CommerceIQ.

The SaaS startup is now helping D2C companies create a free WhatsApp business account, build vernacular voice and text-based commerce bots, re-engage customers, enable order tracking and live chat, and enable the awareness of end users.

“Companies saw 30% growth in user acquisition and interaction in the first two months of integration,” said Mohit.

The team now works with over 100 brands in India.

Mohit explains that WhatsApp has become the intuitive option for businesses, but what sets BusinessOnBot apart is that “we solve the problem of discoverability, sales and retention in a unique partnership for businesses through WhatsApp.”

“Indian language support allows D2C companies to easily scale users even in regions of India through WhatsApp. With WhatsApp focusing on payments and catalogs in its recently released beta features, we can see that WhatsApp will soon become a ‘WeChat for India’, ”Mohit said. “BusinessOnBot is similar to some of the WeChat SaaS companies like Youzan (valued at $ 50 billion) in China.”

Funding and the future

BusinessOnBot’s customer list includes Specmakers, Alpino, TBOF, TAC, Auric, Teabox and others.

The startup follows a subscription-based model, refusing to disclose user fees for the time being. It has a certain percentage of margin on the monthly SaaS fees; the rest is for server and operating costs. Besides the monthly SaaS fees, it also charges usage fees based on WhatsApp message volumes.

According to multiple media outlets, India is home to more than 63 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), many of whom have had to turn to new business models to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now, the SaaS startup competes with Shopify, which helps small merchants start, manage, market and grow their businesses, and powers over one million businesses in 175 countries. Other similar startups include Baaz, which focuses on helping businesses with their video commerce platforms.

BusinessOnBot raised $ 1.3 million in a pre-Series A cycle from Y Combinator, the founders of Dr Vaidya’s, Relentless Ventures, Qua Capital, Smart Invest, Dholakia Ventures, and a few well-known angel investors.

Renowned Angel Investors are experienced Founders / CXOs / Directors of renowned companies such as WhatsApp, OYO, Netflix, Pepsico, Cleartax, Glowroad, etc. Ashish Sharma, partner of Innoven Capital, Archana Priyadarshini, former director of KKR, Ajay Candade and Slideshare. co-founder Amit Ranjan is one of the prominent names who have supported BusinessOnBot.

Commenting on this association, Arjun Vaidya, Founder of Dr. Vaidyas and Venture Lead at Verlinvest said: “As the D2C ecosystem evolves, enablers become very important. Really excited to see what the BusinessOnBot team is building to deliver a seamless and hassle-free customer experience and I’m proud to support them on this journey! “

In the first half of 2021, BusinessOnBot grew 145% month on month in MRR. The company is targeting the huge $ 6 billion market opportunity presented by D2C companies in India. Its current customer base of D2C companies spans various industries such as food and beverage, clothing and fashion, health and wellness, consumer goods and jewelry.

Regarding the startup’s plans for the future, Mohit said, “We plan to focus on international expansion into markets like LATAM and Indonesia where WhatsApp has a large user base. We plan to use the funds for R&D and hiring for key roles in technology and marketing.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai