17 Jun 2015 20:23 IST

Intelligent telephony startup looks to expand in emerging markets

Bulk of Knowlarity’s orders come from small businesses

The idea of ‘Knowledge Singularity’ had always intrigued entrepreneur Ambarish Gupta. The term means that machines will become intelligent enough to make machines even more intelligent and human lives easier.

This idea gave birth to cloud telephony services provider ‘Knowlarity’, started by IIT Kanpur batchmates Ambarish Gupta and Pallav Pandey. Knowlarity solves business problems by making telephony intelligent and reliable in real time over cloud for start-ups, and small and medium enterprises.

Recently, Knowlarity’s platform was used for the Twitter Samvad, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off in March this year. In this system, a missed call on an assigned number would enable one to receive the PM’s tweets. The initiative was built on technology from Zipdial, a client of Knowlarity. Twitter acquired Zipdial in January 2015.

Interestingly, the Aam Aadmi Party also used this platform to campaign in the Delhi Assembly elections. A toll-free number provided by Knowlarity was circulated through social media and elsewhere.

Beginnings

On how the journey began, Gupta, who graduated in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur in 2000, says: “Like any other student I didn’t know what to do after college. I got a job in the US, which allowed me to travel around the world, so I took that up.”

Later, he left the US for India and began a real estate start-up. “I realised that a start-up was much more than writing a code and building a website. So I went back to the US for an MBA at Carnegie Mellon University (2005-07) and after that took up a job in consulting.”

In 2009, when the sub-prime crisis happened, and the banking sector collapsed, Gupta realised that emerging markets would grow fast.

“I decided to come back to India. This was the time when consumer telephony was happening. I thought there would be a need for something more powerful than a regular cellphone and the idea for Knowlarity was born,” he says.

Seed fund

Started in 2009 with a seed fund of about $1-1.5 million, Gupta and Pandey got their first gig when they were roped in by Naveen Patnaik to use their system to call various constituencies for campaigning in State Assembly elections in Odisha and then later send ‘thank you’ messages. This fetched the company ₹1.5 crore.

It subsequently raised $6.6 million from Sequoia Capital in 2012. Pandey exited the venture in May 2013. In 2014, it raised $16 million from Sequoia Capital and Mayfield.

Today, Knowlarity’s flagship products — SuperReceptionist, which gets the bulk of its revenue, and SmartIVR — can process over a million calls an hour. It recently announced its new ‘Super Receptionist app’ — a virtual receptionist service which allows businesses to view call records on their mobile phones and track leads at the touch of a button.

Knowlarity is a SaaS (Software as a Service) company with a pay-as-you-go subscription model. It provides custom-fit communication solutions and has tie-ups with several IT vendors, customer relationship management providers and search companies.

While the bulk of the business comes from small businesses ranging from real-estate players to schools, some key clients include Zipdial, Fashionara, Lakme, Mahindra Holiday, Reliance Foundation, Faasos, CarDekho and L&T. It has 12,000 customers across 65 countries.

Competition

“We started this industry in 2009. There was no competition for three years till we received funding. And then, 8-10 companies started within six months,” he says.

Currently, companies such as Ozonetel, Exotel and Sonotel, among others, are also operating in the space.

On whether the company is eyeing acquisitions, Gupta says: “These are small companies and we are fine running our business without worrying about them.”

Knowlarity expects to reach ₹630 crore in revenue within the next three years.

On overseas presence, Gupta says, “We are looking at expanding our footprint in emerging markets, especially in South-East Asia and the West Asian and North African regions.” Knowlarity has offices in Singapore, the Philippines and Dubai.

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