Why a potential trillion dollar B2B bot industry has a “decade of innovation” to come

(c)iStock.com/Bakal

MWC From Domino’s Pizza, to Uber, to Bank of America, bots are one of the hottest properties in business tech right now and opening up new avenues. Yet according to Beerud Sheth, CEO of chatbot platform provider Gupshup: “I see a decade’s worth of innovation yet to come.”

At Mobile World Congress, Sheth was fielding multiple queries as your reporter sidled up for a chat; something of a revelation given the location was the traditionally relatively sparsely populated Hall 8.1. Yet this further validates the Gupshup chief’s vision. “I do believe it’s the next big thing in tech,” says Sheth. “It’s a big paradigm shift that’s going to impact virtually every business.”

One business in particular with whom this has already made an impact is VentureBeat, who enlisted Gupshup to build a voice bot which reads the latest news headlines to users. Another, announced recently, is India’s Yes Bank. Sheth says that ‘it’s great to get validation from real customers at credible businesses’ - the company is talking to retail and media organisations among others – while noting that with sensitive data at hand, particularly on the banking side, bots may not be all-encompassing.

“Every channel has its strengths and weaknesses,” he explains. “There are data concerns with SMS, there are data concerns with voice, there are data concerns with apps and with websites. What you do is they figure out there’s certain information you ca deliver in certain channels and information you don’t – but that doesn’t rise to the level of ‘should we use it or not?’

“Getting balances and so on may be okay [on its own], but if you actually want to move money out, then maybe there are two or more checks, and they do two factor or sometimes three factor authentication across different channels.

“It’s not like somebody can break the bank, so to speak,” adds Sheth. “There are different levels of security for different things you’re doing, and there are ways to address all of them.”  

Given it’s still early days, the journey element of potential customer implementation is vital. Sheth admits his primary role at MWC is to ‘evangelise and increase awareness of bots’ – in other words, what they can do and why they are required – but after that, the opportunity is almost limitless. As he explains – and the missive on the company’s website is pretty clear – bots will be the next big breakthrough, eventually superseding the smartphone.

“I think by next year, you’re going to see some breakout bots, breakout use cases, real success stories, bots that are engaging, bots that are monetising and so on, in a two to three year timeframe you’re probably going to see millions of bots, and in a decade, who knows?”   

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