Engaging customers the new growth fad for startups

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Firms are devising APIs to evolve products and services on cloud

Startups see customer engagement as a route to growth. They are using or devising application programming interface (API) to evolve new products and services on cloud for reaching out to their customers.

For instance Hyderabad Ozonetel is a provider of APIs for telephony services. It is now close to being a $1 million company — it closed the financial year with revenues of Rs 5.4 crore. “We exposed our Koo Koo platform APIs to companies like Zipdial and the latter have innovatively used those APIs to create a missed call platform,” he said adding that Ozonetel has based its business on its APIs to others for development of new products.

According to C Chaitanya, principal architect, another user used its API platform to build a recruitment-enabling tool, which was later acquired by a leading job portal. “Initially, they worked for six months building a new product for recruitment using our API. They have been acquired for about Rs 8 crore, a good exit value, from the point of startups,” he said.

In Hyderabad, another startup StoryXpress has created an API to create business videos, particularly for the small and medium enterprises, which find it difficult to foot the bills for professionally done videos.

According to Ankit Mishra, its co-founder, the API can create a video using few images and key words given by the users. It will use animations and transitions and effects depending on the content. Mishra said two companies are already using its API even as a formal launch was scheduled this month. One of them is a real estate company and the other is a SMB, he said refusing to identify the companies.

It has two business models — a monthly subscription and a pay-per-video generated model. Creating a video using the StoryXpress API would be possible at prices ranging from Rs 500 to 1,000.

Citing use cases, he said it can be used by real estate portals, e-commerce sites, hotels and other businesses. Its can also find use in education, in storytelling and be an alternative for presentations. Among others, it will look to create stock photos and videos, which can be used by individual users, who cannot provide their own photos.

According to Ronak Kumar Samantray, co-founder, NowFloats, which was incubated at Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, is working to help SMBs to be discovered locally with a website. It has about 12,000 paid customers.

The company has been seeing an addition of about 800 paid customers a month, he added. The pricing varies from Rs 10,000 to 20,000 per year per store. He has clients in Nigeria, Morocco, Canada, India and a few other markets.

Among others, it counts, Samsung, Neeru’s, Printo, Pride Honda, Nokia Priority as its customers. “One can use SMS or use the smart phone app or the management portal (from desktop) to manage the websites created,” he said.

The company, which earlier had raised funds from Mumbai Angels, Blume Ventures and a few individual investors, was looking to raise some funds in the due course to expand in domestic and international markets. Valerie R Wagoner, founder and chief executive officer of Zipdial, said the company is now focused on building many APIs.

“Internally, we are doing many APIs. They are all about targeting customers based on location, demographics, behaviours, type of phone used (voice data-based),” she said adding that works are on for friend referrals, customer feedback, store locators and others and some of them will be made public in due course.

Zipdial is now live in Sri Lanka and will expand to Philippines and other markets. It has achieved about 500 million engagements and working with over 100 companies. “We have more than doubled our revenues in the last one year,” she said. According to Ramesh Loganathan, managing director and vice-president of Progress Software, which offers its platform -Progress Pacific- as a platform-as-a-service, is readying to foray into the backend-as-a-service.

“APIs are now a necessity for any cloud-based offering. With data increasing, there comes a time when a part of it has to be exposed for further use,” he said.



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