CEO Eitesam Ahmad Khan (right).
CEO Eitesam Ahmad Khan (right).

What’s one thing you dread more than being hungry? For me, its finding out that the food I ordered hours ago from an online app was not even confirmed in the first place. To top it off, the unbearably long wait time on helpline puts a government office to shame.

But apparently, there are some companies who care about their customers and a local startup is trying to make that process smoother for them.

Meet Intellidesk, a Lahore-based startup that has built an omnichannel help-desk software. What does that mean? Basically, if you are running a brand and have multiple fronts to engage customers — like Facebook, Twitter, text message, call etc — and want to bring all of them under one window to keep better track, these guys have the solution for you.

The portal can be bought in whole (all the channels) or a mix of it, and accessed by agents who then have everything in one place. That means all queries — be they from messenger, chatbot or wherever — will be shown on the Intellidesk page, along with the entire customer profile. That means, their past issues, attributes, wait time, status are all known beforehand.

It also supports outbound interactions, so if you wanna call a customer, just do from the embedded dialer and also create a ticket for the interaction (customisable to the industry). Then there is the admin panel that gives real-time information such as active calls, average talk time, total inbound and so on. Similarly, you can see all the relevant agent performance metrics too.

Plus, they have a contact centre software as well, called Intellicon, that can be either integrated with Intellidesk or used on its own. They have already gotten names like Ferozsons, Allied Bank Netsol as clients, in addition to onboarding several startups such as Airlift, Eat Mubarak, Oladoc etc.

The startup was launched in September 2014 by Eitesam Ahmad Khan and Habibun Nabi Shahid — two telecom and networking professionals. “Few years back when the Rocket Internet started operations in Pakistan and had to build a call centre, we got the chance to deploy the solution for them,” said Khan, adding that “then a random evening outside the Arfa Kareem Centre, the two of us were discussing how there was a broader need for it and just like that, we decided to build a software.”

By virtue of its SaaS model, Contegris (the parent company) makes revenues by charging monthly subscription which can range from Rs2,500 per seat a month and goes up to Rs4,500 for intellidesk and Rs4,500-9,000 for the call centre software. In addition, there is a small one-time onboarding fee. As for the funds, the founders initially invested their own money and have since turned it into a self-sustaining unit, according to the CEO.

Coming to the competitive landscape, not much work is being done locally in terms of software at least. But it’s a different story altogether in the international space. Players like the NYSE-traded Zendesk, Chennai-headquartered global firm Zoho and VTiger — all with strong financial backing and operations spanning well over a decade — have established their brands and amassed a sizable market share. How does a Pakistani startup plan to complete against these?

“Our primary edge is in the domestic market by virtue of being Pakistani. First of all, the pricing is in the rupee which makes us more competitive than the others. Then, for the international too, our product has features that are otherwise not available in, say, Zendesk, which by the way is very call-centre while we offer an omnichannel experience,” Khan explains.

On the topic of customer service and what the market holds, all of us are familiar with the call-centre boom years ago and how it was seen as the easy way to make quick money. Maybe not as lucrative as the Lakshmi chit fund but point being, there is a fairly big market for this so what exactly is Khan eyeing?

“While giants like the TRG can build their own customised solution, it is not an option available to small business process outsourcing (BPOs) companies in the country and that’s where we want to position ourselves. Other than that, tech startups and publicly-traded companies are also among our clientele,” he says.

But Khan wants a share of the global pie too, and is particularly interested in the developing world. “We are trying to find local partners who can help us build our presence in their respective countries, and for that, we are trying to leverage existing business-to-business contacts.”

The writer is member of staff:

m.mutaherkhan@gmail.com

Twitter: @MutaherKhan

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2020

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