Indian developer fired 90 percent of tech support team, outsourced the job to AI
Improved service massively and slashed costs. Gulp
Here's a story from the Department of Massive and Terrifying Irony: a startup Indian software developer struggled to afford its customer support team, so outsourced it – to an AI chatbot that was apparently more efficient and cheaper.
The developer is called Dukaan and offers a platform it promises allows rapid deployment of online stores.
Founder Suumit Shah took to Twitter to reveal that the change to robo-service saw time to first response fall – from a minute and 44 seconds to zero. Resolution time plunged as well – from two hours and 13 minutes when humans were doing it, down to three minutes and 12 seconds with AI on the job. Overall customer support costs dropped by around 85 percent.
Shah detailed how Dukaan struggled to hire people with the skills to work as support agents. "It's like – Lionel Messi doing a full time job at Decathlon, though the theory has some merit, but is ultimately flawed," he wrote.
The founder explained his startup developed its own AI, and linked to Dukaan's AI lead Ojasvi Yadav who shared scant details of the build. Yadav wrote: "As an AI practitioner, I consider this a LLM-library equivalent of working with React devs on your company's own fork, when React was new. Or working with PostGres devs on your company's fork when it was in its initial phases."
Shah's tweets have not gone down well. He described laying off 90 percent of his support team as: “Tough? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.” He then commented on the layoffs as follows:
Given the state of [the] economy, startups are prioritizing "profitability" over striving to become "unicorns," and so are we.
It's less magical, sure – but at least it pays the bills!
Weep, dear readers, for the founders who must now build businesses that are sustainable much earlier in their lives than is possible when cheap, optimistic, money is prevalent. Those poor startups must now worry about balancing their books – like almost every other business in history.
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The AI story is also significant because India has for at least two decades been seen as a source of cheap IT talent that enabled tech companies to reduce their costs. Dukaan's story is a reminder that, while India's workers often still take home much less than IT pros elsewhere, their wages have risen – and AI perhaps represents an even cheaper way to undertake some work.
Yet Dukaan's case study doesn't seem terrifying. Chatbots have been a frontline support tool for over a decade – often deployed to steer customers to self-service options so that remaining staffers can handle the gnarliest inquiries that warrant more expensive human intervention. With Dukaan silent on the details of its rig, there's a chance it's not that radical an AI assault. ®