Shuvo Rahman is the founder and CEO of Alice Labs, a Dhaka-based startup that gives multi-channel customer support options and digital assistant to ecommerce and on-line companies. Integrated in Singapore in 2018, Alice Labs at present operates in South Asia and Southeast Asia together with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka serving over 50 e-commerce shops and enterprises, together with main manufacturers and retailers like Unilever, Coca-Cola, Giordano, and Maybelline, amongst others.
On this interview with Future Startup’s Naziba Ali, Mr. Rahman offers us a peek behind the scenes of Alice Labs, his path to entrepreneurship, the origin of Alice Labs, the early days of constructing the product, placing collectively the crew and sources, the state of Alice Labs as we speak and its ambition going ahead, the prospect of SaaS trade in Bangladesh, why panic hiring must be prevented by founders in any respect value and way more.
Future Startup: Thanks for agreeing to do that interview with us. I wished to begin originally of your journey, may you please inform us about your background and path to entrepreneurship?
Shuvo Rahman: I earned my bachelor’s diploma in Laptop Science and Engineering from BUET in 2015. In 2016, I joined as a Tech Group Lead at Maya Apa which is an nameless messaging platform that connects customers with knowledgeable recommendation. Downside-solving has at all times been my forte. To that finish, I designed varied machine studying modules for Maya to deal with challenges equivalent to categorizing person inquiries and matching them with acceptable specialists. I met one in every of my co-founders, Jamil Akbar, who was employed as a Mission Supervisor again then at Maya. We needed to collaborate on tasks from time to time and in consequence, we constructed a very good rapport over time.
In 2017, Jamil, Fahad (CEO of iFarmer and at present a Director at Alice), Munim and I began a dev store: MisFit Applied sciences Ltd. Jamil had experience within the subject of automation, Fahad was apt at technique and imaginative and prescient, Munim at gross sales and advertising and marketing whereas engineering and product growth was my forte. Being one of many founding members and CTO, I used to be concerned within the strategic and technical selections and roadmaps to take the corporate ahead. One among our tasks has spun off into Alice Labs. I’m nonetheless on the board of Misfit however am not concerned in day after day operations.
Future Startup: When and the way did you provide you with the concept of Alice? What motivated you to begin Alice Labs?
Shuvo Rahman: Within the early days, MyAlice began as a challenge of MisFit. We finally determined to ascertain it as a stand-alone enterprise and I took over because the CEO. At Misfit, we have been making an attempt to unravel multifarious issues of numerous companies. Whereas working with a number of enterprises, I seen a development: Clients most popular to succeed in out to retailers through social media relatively than emails or name facilities. For the reason that common consideration span of as we speak’s people ranges from 8-12 seconds, there is a first rate risk they’re going to transfer on to a different model if their questions aren’t answered proper off the bat. 75% of web shoppers and potential prospects count on assist inside 5 minutes. So it turned crucial for e-commerce and on-line companies to make sure seamless buyer expertise throughout all conversational platforms: Messenger, Fb, Viber, WhatsApp and so forth.
Throughout these days, I actually encountered a horrible customer support expertise with a financial institution. Whereas I used to be in Myanmar for work, I known as the decision middle with a query, however the wait was exasperating. I additionally emailed them, however obtained a response three days later. Actually, 78% of consumers really feel irritated as a result of they should relay the identical data to a number of workers of an organization throughout completely different conversational channels. To resolve such buyer inconveniences, I devised the idea of MyAlice, which automates buyer interactions and helps organizations scale back help prices and response occasions. It additionally buildings conversational information which assist enterprises to grasp their person base thus managing their prospects from a myriad of sources.
Alice’s proprietary AI learns over time from the interactions of human brokers. On daily basis, the most effective D2C manufacturers use our buyer care resolution and digital assistant, from e-commerce to trend, FMCG, and even banks.
Future Startup: What went into constructing the preliminary operation of MyAlice? How did you set collectively preliminary funding and different issues to get began? Please stroll us by what the primary few months of your journey have been like and the challenges you confronted.
Shuvo Rahman: As I discussed earlier than, we began growing MyAlice as a product of MisFit. Ultimately, we realized the market demand and determined to separate MyAlice from its guardian firm because it began gaining some traction. So initially, MyAlice was bootstrapped.
One of many hardest elements of a bootstrapped SaaS enterprise is low money move (particularly originally). You want prospects to construct up your month-to-month recurring income so you possibly can develop and broaden your product. Therefore, we needed to focus lots on gross sales relatively than product enchancment. That was positively a troublesome journey for us. Nonetheless, we have been lucky sufficient to generate traction rapidly after which safe financing to permit our product growth crew to work on bettering MyAlice.
Aside from that, we focused on assembling the most effective crew potential. We recognized the skills we’d like within the crew and used our community to find individuals who’ve these capabilities.
Future Startup: From a product perspective, how does MyAlice work as a platform? How does the tech half work?
Shuvo Rahman: Through the use of MyAlice, you do not have to juggle between softwares to converse together with your prospects throughout a number of channels. Companies can join all of their customer-facing channels, equivalent to web site chat and social media messaging platforms, to MyAlice to automate conversations for each gross sales and repair by pure language processing (NLP) and machine studying (ML) with the power to easily transition to a reside operator when required. 3 minutes is all it takes to arrange #yourAlice and automate 70 % of your customer support conversations and scale back service prices by greater than 30 %.
Step 1: Join all of your messaging and digital channels by logging into MyAlice. Present data associated to the dimensions of your companies, product class, quantity of transactions and so forth. Within the current world, efficient communication is important for efficient customer support. MyAlice is powered by Pure Language Processing (NLP) which provides it the power to cater to completely different prospects of their native language, be it Bangla, English, Bahasa, Malay, Philipino, Arabic or Burmese.
Step 2: Automate your buyer responses by the Digital Assistant chatbot. MyAlice will mechanically reply to the queries of your shoppers even at 4 am by all social media and digital channels.
Step 3: Combine your ecommerce retailer to MyAlice’s-commerce assist desk to learn from our inventory integration automations. On this means, you don’t must examine your retailer manually every time you get a gross sales question on every of your completely different channels.
MyAlice also can decode advanced conduct of buyers throughout completely different areas, perceive person preferences and suggest related merchandise. Companies also can observe earlier orders, considered merchandise and promote extra by up-selling and cross-selling.
Future Startup: What’s your rationale behind narrowing right down to e-commerce and on-line companies as your core goal demographic?
Shuvo Rahman: It’s important for us to scale as a tech startup. Aside from e-commerce enterprises, we additionally take care of FMCG, banks, and telecommunications corporations. Within the FMCG sector, nonetheless, as a result of model loyalty is usually excessive for these merchandise, there are fewer alternatives to generate stickiness. Alternatively, most banks don’t even use Cloud, so scalability is close to unattainable.
Clients flock to e-commerce shops in better numbers. And retailers should reply to buyer queries as quickly as potential. So far as my data goes, there are round 24 billion e-commerce shops worldwide. Nonetheless, only a few e-commerce shops are seen. 90% of e-commerce shops are on Shopify and WooCommerce. So, when it comes to scalability in addition to income technology, e-commerce is a distinct segment and profitable market. And the pandemic has solely strengthened its place. MyAlice thus works with over 50 e-commerce websites and organizations throughout the area, together with main manufacturers and retailers equivalent to Unilever and Coca-Cola, amongst others, by its subscription-based customer support plans.
Future Startup: How did you design your buyer acquisition channels? Might you inform us concerning the methods that you simply carried out to realize the expansion?
Shuvo Rahman: When selecting your channels, you need to hold your pricing mannequin in thoughts. I adopted the 80/20 rule whereas choosing my gross sales and advertising and marketing channels. To start, we relied on SEOs and phrase of mouth inside our networks. We began pushing our product on related E-commerce teams on Fb. Because of its comparatively low CAC and virality impact, Fb has been a terrific channel for us to amass prospects.
Nonetheless, these e-commerce shops may solely deal with 20-30 orders every day. For these retailers, we devised a $50/month pricing technique. As you possibly can inform, the ARPU was virtually insignificant. With a purpose to broaden our client base, we additionally resorted to influencer advertising and marketing.
As a enterprise skilled, that high-end manufacturers don’t count on a gross sales name or a advertising and marketing e-mail to kick off their analysis course of. Since we’re a B2B enterprise, we determined to pursue Account-based advertising and marketing. With a purpose to onboard the respected manufacturers, we launched a 300$/month pricing mannequin. Our Gross sales and Advertising and marketing crew would produce an inventory of the best-fit shoppers with the most important ROI potential for MyAlice. Subsequent, we might ship them automated emails.
Future Startup: How a lot has MyAlice developed over the previous years?
Shuvo Rahman: I’d say, lots. We have now constructed partnerships with native gamers in practically each nation within the South and SouthEast Asia together with Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, amongst others. These international locations are very a lot native language-oriented and it’s tough for any overseas firm to penetrate this market. MyAlice makes use of machine studying and pure language processing to imitate human experiences by understanding textual content inputs and decoding their meanings throughout languages.
The companions basically resell our product, extending our distribution. We’re additionally specializing in our gross sales crew within the Center East. Within the third quarter of 2021, we’re planning to launch systematic gross sales campaigns however until then we’ll be specializing in strengthening our product in cooperation with our tech companions.
We have now efficiently raised US$500,000 in seed funding led by New York-based VC Anchorless Bangladesh and took part by HOF Capital.We intend to make use of the brand new funding to additional develop its product, kind new alliances, and broaden into new markets in Southeast Asia, the Center East, and North Africa. As Alice Labs expands into extra of those markets and incorporates extra languages, it will likely be capable of strengthen its strategic moats.
Future Startup: Did you propose to construct a world startup from the get-go? What sort of methods, in your opinion, are mandatory for constructing a worldwide SaaS firm from the bottom up?
Shuvo Rahman: Within the very starting, I simply centered on the macro adjustments in client conduct: the typical consideration span was shrinking and it was turning into tough for enterprises to maintain shopper communication throughout a number of channels. So I stepped in to handle the issue with MyAlice. Initially, all I wished to do was hold my head above water. It was difficult for us to realize fast sufficient progress as a result of MyAlice was a bootstrapped startup.When MyAlice started to collect momentum, that’s once I set my sights larger.
For constructing any sort of startup, be it native or international, it’s best to equally deal with the 4 dimensions: Market, Product, Channel and Mannequin. Make certain to present your product a core worth, a hook, a time to worth, and a stickiness issue. Whereas going international, be sure that the markets you’re concentrating on have related points and that you would be able to combine your operations.
Future Startup: What are some errors you’ve made, if any, that you really want different entrepreneurs to keep away from?
Shuvo Rahman: As a founder, you need to keep away from panic hiring. Construct a crew that gained’t sink your startup. To keep away from panic hiring, hold this mantra in thoughts: The incorrect rent is worse than no rent.
Future Startup: What are your future plans for Alice Labs?
Shuvo Rahman: In 2022, we wish to goal the Australian and European markets, with a aim of getting into the North American market by the tip of 2023. Nonetheless, we’ll maybe not be growing new merchandise for the subsequent 2-3 years, however will deal with constructing moats round MyAlice. As a result of the event of a brand new product necessitates the evolution of your channels and marketing strategy, so in the intervening time, we wish to be very centered on a particular vertical which is e-commerce.
Future Startup: What are your ideas concerning the prospect of the SaaS trade in Bangladesh?
Shuvo Rahman: The startup tradition in Bangladesh is regularly evolving. Presently there are 5-6 Bangladeshi SaaS corporations which might be doing rather well. From a technological standpoint, we’ve a major edge as a result of the price of hiring builders or engineers is decrease. That’s, we’ve a unit financial system in our favor, and we are able to assemble a SaaS providing for 10 occasions much less cash. You simply must be sure you can promote the product. With enough coaching of younger founders, Bangladesh has the potential to supply numerous worldwide SaaS enterprises. Nonetheless, when in comparison with the technological infrastructure of the North American and European markets, Bangladesh remains to be 10-15 years behind.
A SaaS enterprise doesn’t have any boundaries and therefore, may be scaled quickly. Even for a brand new agency, SaaS generally is a terrific technique to get began and finally develop right into a million-dollar enterprise. You’ll be able to promote your companies to any firm on this planet. Nonetheless, if you happen to do not construct a moat, your group will perish.