Everyone is wished to have a Genie to listen to one’s wish list and so US-based startup has brought such a Genie for us.
Tina Mani, the co-Founder of Delaware, US-based startup YFret, works upon artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies that help customers in a store and online shopping sites to look upon products and add them to the cart or wishlist. It offers the overall shopping experience conversationally, any kind of without manual intervention.
Moreover, this is a B2B model-based startup that serves retailers and e-commerce platforms, hence, it does not provide service to customers directly.
Alluring its customers
YFret was founded in 2015. Currently, it has Tanishq, Titan, Fastrack, FabAlley, and over 100 small and medium businesses in its client list. When businesses embody YFret’s service into their website, a real-time personalization engine AURA will be located. This also provided voice shopping. AURA helps businesses draw their customers, also for the new visitors, and offers personalized recommendations accordingly.
For example, if someone has to buy clothes, then AURA reads and records a customer’s taste by analyzing certain parameters like the product category, gender, sleeves, and patterns of the fabric, and budget, thus gaining a 360-degree understanding of the audience.
Moreover, customers can also check trends through it and re-targeted by businesses on multiple channels such as messages, email, and browser or app notifications. Tina wanted to make e-commerce experience easy which is popular in the country. This week, YFret is stepping into brick-and-mortar stores to enable contactless service, introducing with a store in Kerala.
Tina explained, “Customers can visit kiosks equipped with a TV screen and tablets and initiate a conversation by asking for a product. All the options will appear on the screen from which they can shortlist a few and the seller will then present the selected few out of 20 odd products to try.”
She believes that this will bring a new era of shopping as it is apt for social distancing norms during the COVID-19 pandemic and also feasible to reach the older generation and people who are not tech-savvy. The moto of YFret is to help retailers to flourish in a similar way on virtual platforms. Presently, the startup provides services in Hindi and English and will add regional languages too in the future.
YFret is competing closely with Haptik, a conversational AI platform owned by Reliance Jio, which provides a similar service. But the co-founder of YFret has trust in its personalization engine, Blueroo, voice commerce startup, works in a similar manner on the global platform.
But the key challenge is to raise funds. So far, she has raised $345,000 from friends and family. Currently, the company is in talks to raise funds and wishes to pull up the product to the global market including the US and UK and scale faster.
She further explained, “These were not institutional funds but helped me in staying afloat for some time. If I had raised funds in one go, it would have been easier to plan for the long term or for a year.”
Turning towards the entrepreneur ecosystem
Tina had worked in Telecom industry for two decades and left it long back and took the entrepreneurial plunge into the booming e-commerce space.
Tina Mani is a computer science graduate and worked as a coder at Nortel telecom company in the US in 1995. She always believed that product management was her forte. She was also a member of a team that launched the 3G network in the US and when the company decided to introduce the network in South India with BSNL, she grabbed the opportunity and come back to India in 2005.
Later, she worked at Nokia Siemens where she came across the cultural shock. She recalled, “Nortel had an open culture and I never felt like I was working in a large setup, I got the freedom to do what I wanted. But when I moved to Nokia Siemens, there was a hierarchy of sorts, a lot of politics and too many people trying to do the same thing. I just felt meaningless.” In 2012, she resigned from her job and forayed into the startup world in 2015.
Tina is being characterized by an explorer and writer. Now, she is engaged in hosting webinars, editing short video content as a marketing strategy post the COVID-19 outbreak. Her wish is to make YFret a go-to product for conversational commerce in India as well as in global markets like the US.