Gupshup describes itself as a conversational engagement platform that enables businesses to have intelligent conversations with customers. The San Francisco-based unicorn uses technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), which it believes, dramatically improves the quality of conversations. Beerud Sheth, cofounder and CEO, Gupshup, talks about the role of AI in conversational engagement, and the company’s IPO and expansion plans, in an interview with Ayushman Baruah. Edited excerpts:
Will describing Gupshup as an AI-based chatbot be too narrow a definition?
Yes, I think it is a little narrow. We describe ourselves as a conversational engagement platform. What that means is we help businesses have conversations with customers through chat. And in that process, engage their customers, do marketing deals, offers and so on. So, it is really about helping companies do business with consumers through chat.
How do you see technologies like ChatGPT playing a role in engaging customers?
AI dramatically improves the quality of the conversation because firstly, it can help understand what the user is asking for and then construct an appropriate response for the user, and do it in the right language. It dramatically improves the conversation experience. Internally, we use GPT3, which is the model underneath Chat GPT, which provides the APIs for us to do it. But in addition to that, there are many other models that are emerging. Some of them are open source, Meta, Google, Stability AI, which have launched these. We continue to evaluate them.
Which sectors are rapidly adopting the Gupshup platform?
I think for us, the most important sector is banking and financial services which would include FinTech. Then, Retail and E-commerce companies are heavy users of it. In addition, transportation, airlines, and hospitality like hotels and restaurants are using it quite heavily. Healthcare is also emerging as well as government agencies.
In terms of markets, which are your key markets and what are your expansion plans?
All of our current adoption right now is in the emerging markets. India is the biggest market for us. Then, we have the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and maybe a little behind is Africa. The US and Western Europe are a little low now but there are some new features coming up which would make the platform attractive to those markets as well.
How are your IPO plans shaping up?
In this market, I don’t think any company can plan an IPO as such. The IPO window (in the US) is currently closed and there are a lot of uncertainties and therefore investors are still sitting on the sidelines. The way we look at it is since it is not in our control, we are focussed on continuing to drive profitable growth at scale. There are very few companies that have the kind of financial profile that our company has. If we do that, whenever the markets open up, we will be ready to IPO and it will be a successful one because the general philosophy is – focus on building value and the valuation will follow.
What was your revenue in the last fiscal and what are your targets?
Last year (calendar year), we clocked about $250 million in revenue. We are growing about 50% year over year, so this year, we plan to touch about $350 million in revenue.