“Traditional voice-based call center service is difficult and costly. This is where artificial intelligence and voice technology have presented an opportunity for enterprises to overcome the challenges of scale and engagement at their customer contact centers,” Skit co-founder and CEO Sourabh Gupta told TechCrunch.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented increase in call volumes at bank call centers as customers tried to manage their portfolios amid the chaos of work from home policy and financial instability, Gupta said. And that presented an opportunity for companies like Skit.
“Customers have a natural tendency to prefer voice call support over other self-service channels and this has led to the increase in pressure on the traditional interactive voice responses (IVR) systems and support agents to respond to all incoming queries,” he said.
Bengaluru-based artificial intelligence SaaS voice automation company Skit, formerly known as Vernacular.ai, developed its AI-based voice automation platform VIVA, short for Vernacular Intelligent Voice Assistant, which enables corporations to automate 90% of their call center operations powered by Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology. VIVA covers more than 16 languages and 160 dialects.
Skit announced today it has closed a $23 million Series B round to accelerate its growth in domestic and global markets, including the U.S. and Southeast Asia and enhance its voice automation platform.
The company was founded in 2016 by two co-founders, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee alumnus Sourabh Gupta and Akshay Deshraj.
The latest funding was led by WestBridge Capital, along with existing investors Kalaari Capital and Exfinity Ventures, IAN Fund, LetsVenture and Sense AI. Angel investors including Prophetic Ventures’ Aaryaman Vir Shah also participated in the round. The Series B round brings Skit’s total funding to $30 million.
Skit will use the fresh funding for sales, marketing, further R&D to strengthen its personalized solutions and voice products, as well as its global 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 North America by [making] our product available to U.S. enterprises,” Gupta told TechCrunch.
The company said it has quadrupled its amount of revenue and numbers of customers in 2020-2021 since its previous fundraising, a $5.1 million Series A, in May 2020. Its average order book has also been growing in CAGR 200-300% every year, Gupta added. It currently has 150 employees.
Skit recently expanded into the U.S. and Southeast Asia market.
“We noticed that there (Southeast Asia) is a high potential market for the adoption of conversational AI. Most importantly, these markets are home to a multitude of languages and dialects,” Gupta said in an exclusive interview with TechCrunch.
Given that language and hyper-personalization are Skit’s strongest suit, the company is witnessing increased adoption in Southeast Asia markets, where is easier for the company to expand with similar demographics and business challenges as in India, Gupta explained.
It also opened headquarters in NYC. “It is a mature market, ahead in technology adoption with a level-playing for strong competition,” he said.
Venture advisor at WestBridge Capital Sashi Reddi said in a statement: “Skit’s success in helping India’s largest companies, positions them well to enter the US market where there is a massive need for voice AI solutions.”
The global contact center market size is expected to increase steadily and reach $496 billion by 2027. Skit will potentially address the $300 billion voice customer service market with its voice AI platform VIVA, Gupta said.
Its B2B and B2C clients are in diverse industries, including banking, insurance, finance, securities, non-banking finance companies, travel, logistics, food & beverage and e-commerce. It has more than 25 B2B clients, including Axis Bank, Hathway, Porter and Barbeque Nation, according to Gupta.
Call centers are traditionally places where there are high costs and high attrition rates, and for the end-users the traditional interactive voice responses (IVRs) and the wait times are irritating. There were longer than usual wait-times, call drops and going through extensive IVR menus and frequent agent transfers, which increase customer frustration.
With more than 10 million hours of training data, Skit's VIVA replicates human-like conversation and understands the speaker’s intent and can translate other unique speech characteristics that enable more efficient query resolutions, Gupta said.
Skit has been listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia startups 2021.