Behind the Scenes of Haptik, Chat Based Personal Assistance
Thanks to Aakrit Vaish’s “insane desire of making an impact” in everything he does and his idea of job as “very alien in his upbringing”, given his father being a serial entrepreneur, which led him to create Haptik – a chat-based personal app which looks like revolutionizing the conversational commerce in India.
While Vaish initially worked from his house in Mumbai in August 2013, within a month he moved to an office space where he had his team of another start-up Flat. to, a real estate platform for college students and bachelors. Flat.to was, however, sold to real estate start-up CommonFloor in April 2014. For the next six months, Vaish slogged away
16 hours daily building Haptik but that wasn’t tough for him as he was working equally crazy in setting up the India office of US-based mobile analytics company Flurry in 2011. “There is not much of a life left (when you are working that many
hours) and your health goes out of the window too, but I feel hungry very often and if I’m hungry I can’t work. So I used to eat often while working,” says Vaish though he always abides by his golden rule to remain spirited throughout the following week. “I don’t work on Sunday to refresh myself. So, Sunday is usually a ‘sleep day’ until something is absolutely urgent.”
Ever since Vaish was a kid, he thrived in leading every activity whether at school or at college (University of Illinois, US) where he led, for example, cricket team, engineering society etc. So, how could he be working for someone else when it came to realizing his purpose in life. “It was quite clear that I’m meant for bigger things in life. This got more apparent while I was at Deloitte Consulting from 2008-2010 in the US. Though I was as one of the best performers but that never excited me,” says Vaish based in Mumbai. During a networking break at a conference in 2011, he stumbled upon the idea of building a platform for providing information using chat as an interface. Vaish, at that time was setting up Flurry India which served clients like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter that have messaging as an interface.
“One of the delegates during the conversation asked me that if I could build an app where users can message brands for help, for example, if I could message an airline to book my ticket. So that got stuck with me. However, later what seemed more exciting to me and my cofounder (Swapan Rajdev) was the idea of communication from user to a neutral person which would be like a personal assistant. After few prototypes, we launched Haptik in August 2013,” reminisces Vaish. Haptik, derived from the word Haptic, means “non-verbal feedback by touch, text etc.” The app allow users to get responses to various concierge services such as booking tickets, restaurant reservations, best shopping deals etc., which are either machine-aided or through chat assistants.
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The very first day, or the first night to be precise of launching the service literally kept Vaish and his team on their toes. The team forgot that they had their chat assistants available to answer queries only till 10 pm. “We launched on
31st March 2014 and it was quite funny. I, Swapan and our developers’ team were left answering queries till 8 am next
morning. Swapan, then released an update to make sure that services are off in the night,” says Vaish. Haptik raised its
undisclosed Series B funding from Times Internet, digital arm of the Times of India group in April 2016. The company serves beer every Friday evening and have quarterly team parties to keep the fun-quotient intact for employees even as
Vaish believes Haptik to be at a crossroads of the next most impactful consumer technologies globally – conversational commerce.