Tired of listening to that monotonous music when you dial into a customer service helpline? Fear not, rescue is here!
Meet Omar Khan and Rizwan Chand – two young Pakistanis, founders of the startup Appography, aspiring to revolutionise the caller experience for customer service helplines. They have developed a smartphone app, Vivid, that aims to transform the ‘boring’ and ‘frustrating’ ordeal into an engaging one.
This app, they say, will resolve a global problem through a locally developed app.
Just last month, Vivid, which landed a spot in not just the Punjab Information Technology Board’s technology incubator Plan9, managed to become a part of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London.
In this vein, the duo now stands as the first Pakistani team to have grabbed a finalist spot, as one of 10 finalists selected for the 3 month programme.
The road less travelled
“The basic concept is to transform the auditory experience of calling a helpline into a visual and hassle-free one, so as to make information consumption fairly engaging,” says Khan.
The 29-year-old sits back, at ease. After having traversed across various industries, from telecom to banking, he bid farewell to the linear career trajectory, all for his ideal startup.
He and Chand, a freelance entrepreneur and his batch mate from Staffordshire University, Chand, stumbled upon the idea during a brainstorming session a few years back. Annoyed by the time wasted in listening to Mozart and Beethoven on-hold music while trying to access a customer service helpline, the two thought of developing an app to make the process speedier and more interesting.
After a year of planning and developing, the app was ready by mid-2013.
“We were both really excited about the impact this app will have, particularly on the call centre industry,” says an animated Chand.
Details tell the tale
With the app available for smartphones free of cost, Khan and Chand hope to sell the software to corporate businesses, in aims of developing a user friendly caller experience at helpline services. Instead of calling the helpline, the app will allow the user to consume similar information visually.
To step up the experience even further, the app automatically queues up the user for a call with the customer service advisor.
“In case customers don’t find the relevant information on the customer tree, they can opt to get a call from the advisor,” says Khan.
If the customer advisor is busy, the app informs the user of the time wait. During this stretch, the phone is free for other activities, and when the advisor is available, he or she calls the user.
“For the first time, there is any telephonic contact between the user and helpline service,” he adds proudly.
Eye on the international prize
Vivid has been pitched in the local market but with their participation in the activation program expected in February in London, the developers are also eyeing the international arena. Out of 1,000 teams that applied for the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, 40 were shortlisted. Then, finally, 10 were selected for the February cohort.
During the startup activation programme, Chand and Khan will get office space, mentoring, access to the customer database, all along with a shot at a pilot project. The team is also the only Pakistani team to have raised seed money amounting to Rs30 million.
“We want the global market to realize the potential in Pakistan,” says Khan. “Pakistanis are street smart but there is a general lack of focus here.”
And yet, it’s not just all work and no play for these two. Once the startup kicks off into a thriving business, the young team will live it up – a short retirement, they say, somewhere in the Caribbean on their own yacht, is certainly on the cards!
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2014.