Silicon Valley-based Cloud messaging service platform Gupshup recently launched its bot building platform Gupshup.io, which can be used by businesses to build bots on messaging channel like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram etc. According to Gupshup, the platform is already being deployed by over 2000+ developers and 200+ brands worldwide to build bots and the company says more than 350 Indian developers have used their platform. In a conversation with Business Today, Beerud Sheth, founder and CEO of Gupshup talks about how bots are being utilised by businesses.
Q. Bots have been around for a while now. So why this sudden surge in popularity?
A. Messaging was always a secondary thing. But off lately the primary usage of smartphones has shifted to messaging and the messaging app has become the most used app in a smartphone. Today, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger take 80 per cent of the time you spend on your smartphone and nobody wants to ignore this trend. Now it has gone from being a secondary service to a primary service. Therefore everybody is wondering, what if we provide the additional service besides the messaging, what if we can book a taxi, order a pizza, do a transaction etc. on a messaging app and therefore bots have become very prominent.
Q. How has been the response so far on your bot building platform?
A. While we launched the platform in April, in some way we have been working on messaging and bots for many years. In April, when Facebook opened its API, we launched our bot platform because suddenly there was an explosion of interest in building them. The response has been excellent, more than 2,000 developers worldwide have built bots on our platform. Many major banks are building it, e-commerce companies and lots of start-ups are building it as well.
The bots built on your platform operate on which platforms? Right now the biggest platform is Facebook Messenger, but it also works on Slack, Telegram, Skype etc. If a bot is built on our platform it works on a dozen channels, most of the users tend to be on Facebook messenger. Also, WhatsApp is working on opening its API and when that happens it will be another big deal.
Q. How can bots really help businesses?
A. Bots are just like websites or apps. It's a software programme with a different interface. So if we have a web interface we call it a website, if it's an app interface we call it a mobile app and if it's in form of a messaging app we call it a bot. Asking how a bot is useful is like asking how a website is useful. It can be used in 100 different ways. They are useful for e-commerce, for engagement, customer support, employee communication, business processes, work flow; basically everything. I think of bot as a paradigm shift. Everything you do on a website today, you will be doing on a bot in some time.
Q. Any particular sector which is showing more interest in this new technology?
A. E-commerce turns to new technologies very quickly, also many content-driven platforms like magazines, newspapers are also deploying bots. Then there is financial services sector, but slowly everything is going to be affected.
Q. Will Bots phase out app in few years?
A. Absolutely. However, there are certain things that apps can still do better than bots. For example, if you like games and screen experience that can't be delivered on bots. But there are other games emerging in bots too. Apps won't die but more and more usage will migrate to bots.
Q. The technology is nascent and still developing. What are the challenges in deploying bots?
A. Building a bot requires a lot of work with many integrations need to be done. Many stages are involved - how do you develop the bot, where are the tools, then where do you host it? Also when you launch it there is a whole process of getting approval and then after launch monitoring is needed. You have to develop a conversation script and make your bot understand how to go through it. Each of these things take time and are challenging.
Q. Are there some security concerns too?
A. Bots can act like friends, you will ask questions and they will provide answers. As they become strong they can capture a lot of information and we don't know who they share it with. So people think it sounds friendly and it sounds human so we can share more but that can lead to security concerns. Also while making payments trust issue would really come up. But, all these concerns are slowly getting resolved.