“We have never looked at automation as a way only to cut down on cost.” #AIBoss [Interview With Parag Arora, Glowing.io]
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Here is the second and final part of our interview with Parag Arora, who is a technology entrepreneur with deep insight into messaging solutions, having sold his first startup Plustxt to Paytm in 2013 and currently holding the position of Chief Technology Officer at Glowing.io – a YCombinator selected startup that provides an AI based messaging solution to the hospitality industry.
NextBigWhat caught up with him for a rather extensive tête-à-tête on the journey of Glowing.io from conception to product, AI & NLP in the hospitality space, and whether or not he considers voice based solutions like Alexa a threat in the coming future.
In terms of the tech stack, how does Glowing.io operate? How has it evolved over the product’s lifetime?
The heart of the messaging system is Erlang based RabbitMQ and we have evolved from XMPP based architecture which was also used in Plustxt, later sold to Paytm.
Glowing.io posed new challenges for providing enterprise-grade features as assignment and removal of conversations in real-time manually by staff or automated by our system.
Apart from this, the business layer is built over Ruby on Rails with backend as PostgreSQL. We use native apps for mobile and nodeJS for our messaging infrastructure. For the frontend we use ReactJS.
Two main infrastructures we have developed over time are QA and DevOps automation. We are currently deployed over AWS and Alibaba and both have proved to be very crucial components for us over time.
What kind of machine learning systems has Glowing.io implemented and what do you hope to achieve with it?
Our main focus has been on NLP and further automating tasks inside the organization achieving operational efficiency as an end goal depending on integrations we have done with other systems of that particular hotel.
What are the kinds of analytics you use to measure guest success on the hotel end – as in, what kind of analytics do you make available to them – as well as customer success on your end i.e the KPIs you use internally?
We have a customized analytics dashboard inside the product and the most important component we currently focus on for customer success is guest engagement – which is essentially a percentage of new guest conversations compared to new guest check-ins on a particular date.
With the onset of Alexa and other voice based solutions which are seemingly being adopted in the hospitality industry, do you view them as a threat or as something that you can integrate into your solution? Or even, perhaps, build on top of it?
For us, Alexa is just like any new communication channel. We aim to be the digital hub for hotels for guest conversations.
The only difference we see is that guests are already trained to receive automated instant replies to Alexa compared to messaging channels where guests expect human-like conversations.
Since a product like Glowing.io would presumably entail deep integration into a hotel’s processes – what is the flow like in terms of training hotel staff/personnel to get to grips with the solution? And what kind of timeline do you maintain for it?
We understand introducing a new system with a new process takes time and we give hotels enough time to internally align. Although the overall onboarding can be done in a day, we have divided the onboarding in 45 days with weekly sync-ups to ensure the program is successful from operations, marketing, branding, and sales side. We also provide an optional onsite training program which I personally love a lot as we get to learn a lot about the property and it provides an opportunity to travel to beautiful places and experience their hospitality.
Developing markets have the advantage of cheap labour – is it a safe assumption that they would rather have a human behind the screen than invest in an AI? And have you come face-to-face with this in terms of sales across geographies? How are you dealing with it?
Interestingly Glowing.io is deployed in equal proportions in developing economies as well as developed. We have never looked at automation as a way only to cut down on cost and resources but rather as a way to be operationally efficient, correct and more data-driven.
According to you, what is the future of conversation between customers and companies in the context of chat, voice and more?
I think the future is that humans will be for emotions and AI will be for automation, taking away the pain and time of redundant tasks. I see a beautiful world of happy employees in hospitality and AI-enabled hospitality for brands who have hospitality in their DNA.
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