In this time of job loss in the market, many are taking upskilling, changing their professional course, and trying something new, but finding mentors is a task that will help without cost. Pay forward is something that Superpro is encouraging and their tie-up with Analytics Vidhya is a step towards that direction.
Gaurav Tripathi, the spokesperson, co-founded Superpro.ai. He has scaled and successfully exited two startups in the last 15 years, having started his first company at 19 while still at IIT Bombay. A life-long learner, he has filed more than 30 patents in Europe and the US around Artificial Intelligence and has raised multi-million dollar investments. Excerpts of the interview:
What is Superpro.ai? Tell us about the team?
Superpro.ai is a tech-based platform equipping independent professionals with the right business tools for the “new normal”.
Vijay Goel, worked as a Data Scientist at Fidelity Investment, where he developed their NLP platform and built an in-house automated chatbot that’s currently being used by millions of global customers. While still at IIT Kharagpur, Vijay and his classmates brought together IIT students and alumni to build a free student-run primary school for underprivileged students.
Vivek Kumar, dropped out of IIT Kharagpur to focus on his IoT startup Intugine Technologies, which won the Asia's Rising Star Award 2014 by TiE and Most Innovative Product Award by IESA.
Sagar Ramteke, has worked in business development and operations for the last 15 years in India and Europe. In 2019, he led and closed one of the world's largest engineering service deals of US$65M.A lawyer by training, Sagar taught himself to code then came to be a technology advisor, an angel investor, and the managing partner of a family office in India.
Each of the co-founders has a specific role to play in the overall growth of the organization. Our vision is to help independent professionals achieve success and happiness as they follow their passion. The idea is to create digital tools for independent professionals that allow them to seamlessly offer, market and deliver their services online.
How did you come up with the idea?
The Eureka moment happened during the first week of lockdown when one of our Super Professionals Arka Mukhopadhyay contacted us for support. During early March, one of our team members had helped him in landing registrations for his workshop and that’s how we had become associated. When the lockdown started, Arka asked us whether we could help him receive online payments and schedule a Zoom session. We gladly agreed to help him.
At that time, we had not envisaged that the IT tools which were a norm for technology professionals like us could become such critical enablers for these professionals. Subsequently, Arka referred a couple of other professionals to us and we also received similar requests from many others. That’s when we realized that we had the capability to build tools that could be used by independent professionals without having to spend a lot of time, effort, or money. That’s where the idea came from.
Thereafter, we marched ahead with the motto ‘Focus on what you do best, and let us take care of the rest.” Initially, all the professionals who joined our network were via direct contact and their referrals. We spoke to each professional personally to understand how they use the existing technology, where they face challenges, and how much time they have to spend on each step.
We held extensive discussions with these people as we wanted to ensure that we deliver value to our initial customers. The aim was to deliver the desired impact on their lives. Subsequently, we tested the service prototype with them and followed it with the design prototypes. After receiving widespread positive feedback, we decided to go ahead with the development.
What is your business/market growth?
We want to build a Superpro community of professionals and talents who can share knowledge, help to learn, impart know-how, and grow. By empowering individual professionals, experts, and creators we hope to cater and help a larger community of beginners, students, and entry-level employees who want to break-in and move fast. After graduating or just at the time of starting a job one needs a lot of learning to get ahead; similarly for someone who wants to start one's own business must know lots of stuff about start-up jargon, culture, and pitfalls - there isn't a college/school for such learning and finding the right expert or mentor is almost impossible these days.
Exactly, here Superpro comes into the picture - as an AI-driven platform we are actually a bridge between people who can give knowledge, train people, guide beginners and people who need it. We are reducing the gap between such people and making it easier with our enabling tools to serve people. We monetize and efficiently organize the entire process for both parties to meet, collaborate, and grow together. With them, we grow as a platform and as a business.
The platform will scale up with the increase in number of calls, free calls and sign ups.
Who are your consumers?
At Superpro.ai, our focus has been on engaging the existing communities and networks of independent professionals. We believe that independent professionals are the actual drivers of any economy’s growth. The pandemic has hit this tribe of professionals really hard and they are trying to be resilient. We see it as a great opportunity to create the perfect tools that save time, money, and effort by helping these professionals turn into “Super Professionals” by using AI.
We help them create strong personal branding online and market their services. With us, they get easy options for their customers to book their services online and make payments. It is our firm belief that in the long term, we will help our “Superpros” reach far beyond their neighborhood, regional or national boundaries. Our aim is to empower them to market and deliver their stories to a global audience using digital tools.
The work-from-home culture sector took a deep hit, how are you managing your business in such tough times?
Our biggest challenge came from the countrywide lockdown itself. We were right in the middle of designing the product and at that time it was envisaged with different features and growth trajectory. We spent a week absorbing the new scenario. Even when the lockdown was initially announced to be 21 days long, we understood that this was going to be a longer-term disruption. Gaurav has an extensive background in AI and Life Sciences and we could see that the situation would potentially transform the way business will be run in the future.
It was felt that the standalone professionals will be hit really hard by the disruption. They were the core audience that we had been building the product for. Hence, we came to the conclusion that we need to revise our strategy and figure out ways that simplify things for independent professionals and help them adapt to the new normal. We contemplated all aspects and realized that the independent professionals who typically delivered services in-person, could do that equally well over video calls. There is no doubt that the digital format is not going to deliver the same personalized touch, but we had to understand that the providers as well as their customers had no alternative, but to adapt to the new digital delivery practices. In a way, the challenge itself became an opportunity.
What are your post-covid plans?
Seeing things as they are, without being overly pessimistic or covertly optimistic - post of COVID is still far away. We plan to help people at each step of this difficult journey we all are together in. We were made during this pandemic, and we intend to grow and maneuver as we see each day. With each passing day and fresh count - professionals face new challenges. We are keeping a close eye on the nature of these challenges and solving them with learning from the past in mind. As for post-COVID, the simple answer would be that we intend to grow faster and make this tool more powerful. Scaling and expanding the platform would be one of the priorities for us.
Reaching people and areas that we right now couldn't is also on our minds.
How do you teach on the platform?
Superpro serves as a platform for teachers and mentors. From our end, we help in educating people on how to use this platform in the best possible way for their business and their needs. One of our main focuses has always been to make the entire user experience effortless.
What trend do you see in the IT industry?
More than trends, right now, the IT industry is in adaptive mode, and it will continue to do for some more time now. It's in the very nature of IT industries to find new technology and build new mediums to help people live an easier life, support new business, and fill the gap and holes made by this pandemic with smart and innovative solutions. Technology will grow with its usual pace but stress is now on making things pandemic-proof to whatever extent that's possible, rather, we feel every sector is doing that.
For trends, due to the global impact of Covid-19, this is the first time we are getting to record and analyze such huge data and behavioral-patterns. We suffered 1918s Spanish flu, 1914(-18) WW1 and 1949(-45) WW2, and many in-between, but couldn't learn much except be prepared and not war. But, now we are ready to learn and use this opportunity to prepare for the future much better. Never before in the history of mankind were we capable of recording such complex data - as we will soon have new findings and fresh insights.
About the funding?
Date: 10th April 2020; Stage - Accelerator; Investor’s Name - SOSV