"We are on the verge of explosive growth," says Mahi de Silva, CEO of Botworx.ai, a data-driven AI platform based in California, when asked about the future of chat bots in India. His statement is reminiscent of a speech delivered by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during a conference in San Francisco last year, wherein he said, "Bots are the new apps".
While it remains to be seen whether chat bots will replace apps in the future, the chat-based interface is definitely gaining momentum. From banks to retailers to entertainment companies, today, everyone is adopting the platform to communicate with their customers and users and those who have not adopted it yet are mulling a launch in the near future.
According to a market survey by Mumbai-based chatbot platform Haptik Infotech, chatbot market size is estimated to grow to $3 billion by 2021 from $700 million in 2016 and 80 per cent of companies surveyed worldwide plan to launch their own chat bot by 2020.
"India is mobile-first, has huge population, smartphones have limited storage space and network is getting better but it is still oversubscribed. So anything that can create more efficiency, might work here," says Silva.
"And as chat bots are always cloud based you are not downloading anything to your phone. Those efficiencies might be quickly realised in this market and the volumes might be better than the US or Europe," he adds.
Botworx.ai recently announced an agreement with Zee Media to create AI powered conversational chatbots for its brands. The California-based company was launched in 2016, and has built chat bots for about 50 businesses around the world. Some of the Indian brands in the Botworx.ai stable include Neemrana Hotels, YouWeCan, Akshaya Patra, Circle of Cricket and others, while international brands include the likes of Tony Robbins, Flawless by Gabriel Union amongst others.
Silva opines that this disruption is going to bigger in the coming years, however, this doesn't mean that apps will disappear as both the platforms can co-exist.
"Like any new technology, we think for certain types of content that shift can happen from app to bots, because the content is relatively compact on bots," Silva says.
"When we go to our customers we don't say forsake your app. We say this is a new channel and it is conversational in nature, it is AI driven so you don't put the burden of decision making on the consumer and it can augment your web experience," he adds.
However, this technology is still a work in progress. Chatbots' inability to understand languages and the lack of speech recognition makes chatting with them difficult at times.
Silva says that as the technology gets better and mature, the lags will disappear. With the shift already in process, Botworx now hopes to cash in this rising market opportunity in India.