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A few days back, Maruti Suzuki India picked up a stake in Sociograph Solutions Pvt Ltd (SSPL) for INR 2 crore. In a regulatory filing, Maruti said the investment would strengthen its offerings by “creating customised sales experiences on the web, virtual reality and augmented reality.”
Ananthakrishnan Gopal, Ashok Balasundaram and Sriram PH founded SSPL in 2016. In an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, the founders discussed their flagship product DaveAI (virtual sales avatar), Maruti deal, funding, innovations and future plans.
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“As a concept, we worked on this from early 2016 where we wanted to create a virtual salesperson. We found that doing sales at a massive level is becoming increasingly difficult for enterprises. It needs good sales people and the ability to deal with many interactions per day. Initially, we started working with software that was helping existing salespeople, and now we have moved on. Today, a large part of the initial discussion of sales is happening through our avatars. It took us around five years to build DaveAI, and it has been in the market for the last two years,” said Ananthakrishnan.
The visual part includes the sales avatar and the representation of the product. This is very crucial in the automobile, real estate ( design of walls, flooring) and textile (presentation of clothes) sectors.
The next pillar is NLP and speech, which is basically to understand what people are saying, what requirements they have and understand it from the point of view of a salesperson of an organisation. “Essentially, we have to represent an organisation or an enterprise in pitching what their brand stands for to the user base. Every product has a different need for a different customer. Just like a salesperson, we have to recommend something to the customer which will satisfy his specific needs. That’s what our engine is able to do. It’s broadly a recommender system that is able to understand where the customer is coming from and with a few sequences of interaction, we are then able to assess what particular feature of the product draws the consumer in,” said Ananthakrishnan.
The third pillar is the company’s proprietary technology (patent pending) called empathetic AI ( as the name suggests, it empathises with the customer). It tries to understand why they have come to purchase a particular product. The product can be deployed across various platforms (web, metaverse, interactive kiosks). The company has also started teaming up with quick-service restaurants where the conversational agent can take your order. The SSPL also has some video analytics mechanisms that happen at the site to ease the whole process
Sriram said, over the last five years, there has been a shift in how a car is purchased and what the sales journey looks like. Most of the purchasing decisions are made online before a person visits the dealership.
“We are trying to help Maruti Suzuki to create a compelling digital experience that will enable users to experience products like a car in the virtual world just like it happens in the physical space without going to a showroom. Think about comparing five cars in the comfort of your home. With touch visualisation tech, you can get as close to a real-life feel,” said Sriram.
Sriram said the Maruti Suzuki deal gives the company a huge opportunity to test new features and new products. “Maruti is the market leader in India and probably has the largest testbed in the country. Working with Maruti provides us with significant scale,” he added.
The recent round of funding saw investment from marquee investors from Japan and India. “The North American market is key for us. The entire round is a strategic round. Metaverse is taking centre stage and we will look into how we can be a platform of choice for enterprises to come and build immersive experiences,” said Sriram.
“I believe that when dealing with customer data, a visual AI technology like ours gives enterprises a significant edge because we already have scale, security, personalisation, and brand avatar capabilities. We will leverage the fund to help enterprises create these immersive experiences for their customers and scale globally. Through our Series A round, which we are in early discussions for, we would scale even more that could extend beyond traditional b2b,” he added.