Bengaluru-based conversational AI startup CoRover’s chatbot AskSarkar app leads users to official government websites and resolves their queries on government services via text, audio, or video. This Made in India app is among the winners of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge.

Numerous Indian startups and entrepreneurs are working on innovative solutions to help the country become Aatmarnirbhar Bharat. Bengaluru-based conversational artificial intelligence (AI) startup CoRover, with its Made in India AI assistant and chatbot AskSarkar app, is one of them.

One of the 24 winners of the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge, CoRover’s AskSarkar app received special mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann ki Baat broadcast to the nation on Sunday, during which PM Modi recognized the disruptive innovations taking place in India.

What does AskSarkar do?

AskSarkar – Pakki Jankari was launched by startup CoRover in October 2019 to solve issues related to mismatched and unverified information provided during online searches for content available on central government websites such as government services, GST, tax, startup funding among others.

CoRover itself was founded in 2016 by Ankush Sabharwal along with Rahul Ranjan, Manav Gandotra, and Kunal Bhakhri. The startup provides a conversational AI platform that offers managed Chatbot-as-a-Service to help businesses improve customer experience, operational efficiency, generate revenue, and save costs.

Speaking to YourStory Media, Ankush says, “CoRover is looking to solve the issue of not finding proper solutions and authentic information using chatbots available in the market.” 

He adds that while AI-based chatbots have existed for a long, users could not always find satisfactory solutions because most chatbots are designed to find answers to queries across all segments. CoRover, on the other hand, designs chatbots to answer queries related to specific use cases. 

Apart from this, Ankush says in several instances companies such as Google provide the AI platform for the chatbot while their client companies feed data and use cases to the technology. This leads to one party designing the platform without knowing the use cases, while one party continues to feed data without knowing the technology. 

“Sometimes if you search PAN cards or scholarships on Google, the first two results are generally two ads, followed by private web pages or posts with good SEO. The official government website comes somewhere in the middle. AskSarkar was launched to solve this problem and lead users to authentic government websites relating to their queries related to central government offerings,” Ankush explains.

Speaking about the technology, he says AskSarkar uses AI, machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP), and recognizes the intent of what users are asking. The chatbot provides authenticated information and portals to answer the user queries.

Currently, the app supports more than 12 Indian languages and provides solutions in text, audio, and video formats.

The co-founder claims that the app currently has around seven lakh, active users. Speaking about future plans, Ankush says, “AskSarkar will be soon scaled up to include information from all states and for all government departments.” 

Products and services

Ankush says prior to establishing CoRover, he worked in the corporate sector and led tech development for many companies, including Wipro, Misys, Altisource, and Digital Harbour. During his stint with corporates, he understood the importance of responding and clarifying user queries to sustain a business. 

In October 2018, the startup went live with its AI chatbot, Ask Disha, on Indian Railways’ IRCTC website. According to the company, the bot can answer user queries on train timings, PNR status, and how to cancel tickets.

Apart from this, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bengaluru startup launched an AI-based doctor-video bot AskDoc that provides automatic answers to queries related to coronavirus and safety measures announced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, and WHO. It also connects users with doctors via video, chats, or audio to get clarifications about the pandemic.

The co-founder claims CoRover has built 70 chatbots till date and counts big names such as Microsoft, Birlasoft, Google, Accenture, AGC, ATC/ITC, Indraprastha Gas Limited, Novigo Solutions, Automation Anywhere, UI Path, IRCTC, Flipkart, Orange, KSRTC, DAVP, NPCI, more than 50 Banks, over 10 media houses, NITI Aayog, and BOSCH among others as its partners and clients.

The Business Model

CoRover operates on a B2B2C model. Currently, the AI conversational platform has over 235 million unique active users, over four million DAU, and eight lakh concurrent users.

“We have three revenue models. The ad-based revenue model is for chatbots deployed by businesses with a very high number of user queries, for instance, IRCTC. The subscription-based model is in place with clients such as ITC, Indraprastha Gas Limited, etc., and then there’s the user-based model where clients are charged per query,” Ankush says.

While the co-founder did not reveal details about pricing, he says it depends on the number of user queries, the number of questions being asked, different intents, concurrent users among other factors. Prices vary for different clients. 

Speaking about the competition, Ankush says CoRover competes with other players such as Haptik and Yellow Messenger. However, the team feels it has a competitive edge due to the multi-format and omnichannel support along with the tech advantage of using AI, ML, and NLP.

The startup is looking to scale and expand operations beyond India, and aims to be “the global leader in the AI chatbot segment”.

“We raised a seed round last year from an entrepreneur and angel investor, RP Singh, who is also an advisor on board. Now, we are looking to raise $2 million to accelerate GTM (Go-to-market) in the global space,” Ankush says.

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