“From being ‘Infinitely Beta’ to helping 130 million end users – the Helpshift Journey”

While most startups begin with a product idea, Helpshift began with building a team. When Baishampayan Ghose and Abinash Tripathy started Helpshift, they were sure of one thing – building a global business out of India. However, since initially they did not have any product or idea in place, they thought of focussing on building their team first.

Today, Helpshift is a mobile-focussed SaaS platform that works as an embedded support desk for apps. The platform essentially integrates with mobile apps and helps developers capture all user-generated information, thereby making it easier and effective for them to solve problems. However, the idea of Helpshift was born out of different iterations and doodles.

Often times we give a lot of focus on building startups with ideas and products and don’t give enough attention to building teams, but it is the team that makes or breaks a startup. So we believed that if we have a sound strong team that had complimentary skill sets, we could always build a world-class product, says Baishampayan.

Being Infinitely Beta

The duo decided to call their company ‘Infinitely Beta’, because they knew that in the initial days, they would go through several product ideas and reiterations and see what the market really needs. In this scheme of things, Paisa.com, a consumer finance product, was the first product the team built in August 2010, while the product had several users and the user experience was focussed.

However, the team weren’t satisfied with this product as it was core Indian and it didn’t resonate with their original idea of creating a global product. Also the team realised that Paisa.com didn’t have a structured revenue model, and it would essentially be difficult to make money.

Coming from a CRM background, Abinash thought that it would be helpful if the team could innovate from the CRM space. This, Baishampayan says, was the time when Quora was launched. This in turn got them thinking that they could mash up Quora and CRM and create a ‘private quora’ for enterprises, used to serve their customers.

Touching the CRM problem

If a customer has problem, they can directly ask the question on the app and answers in turn are cloud sourced and given. We built a CRM suite, which had several fancy features like unified inbox, which would collate all the tweets, emails, and Facebook messages. And the response would be sent out to the relevant platform. We also had trial customers, adds Baishampayan.

Initially, the duo built Helpshift as a web-based platform. However, when Abinash went to the value to speak to the investors, he realised that they need to build the platform for a mobile audience. The team decided to pivot the model overnight and re-code the entire process for a mobile audience and mobile businesses.

It was in 2012 that the company, known today as Helpshift, came into being, and a seed round led by Nexus Venture Partners, Visionnaire Ventures, and True Ventures was done. In 2014, Helpshift raised a $10 million in Series A funding from Intel Capital. Nexus VP had in fact partnered with the team from during their ‘Infinitely Beta’ days as they believed that both Avinash and Baishampayan were outliers and would be able to build a global product.

Understanding the market

Jishnu Bhattacharjee, Managing Director of Nexus Venture Partners, says that they saw that mobile was becoming the main form of communication and content consumption.

On the mobile, the interaction is limited within a certain architecture, but if the attention of the consumer diverts from that space for a query or a problem, you lose out on engagement. So if you get embedded messaging within that app that answers all your queries, it ensures stickiness, says Jishnu.

This, he adds, makes the consumer one of the best evangelists of the product. The brand now has an opportunity to collect data directly from the app and understand what the end consumer behaviour and what they truly want. “This is CRM in its true sense,” says Jishnu.

Helpshift claims to have connected with over 1.3 billion devices across the globe. Baishampayan adds that they are helping over 130 million end users every month. Some of the top clients of Helpshift include Virgin Media, Viacom, Zynga, AMC, and many others.

The help desk market is fast growing and several other players like Desk.com, Zendesk,Freshdesk, TeamSupport, LiveAgent, and Kayako to name a few. Garter has estimated that the CRM will be a $36.5 billion market by 2017.

“Today, we no longer use websites, it doesn’t make sense to use email for supports. From an SMS the world has shifted to WhatsApp, and that is the experience you want to deliver to your end consumer. People no longer want to switch context and move to a different platform, it is rather expensive and unintuitive. That has always been our focus, to build an SDK that can seamlessly blend inside any app on any platform and provide intuitive features. This is our forte, because we have always focussed on mobile from day one,” adds Baishampayan.