Chapter 5b, The Portfolio Chronicles
In this recent Economist article, much has been foretold about AI being the new frontier of chat and chat transforming itself into a much-awaited layer for commerce in more parts of the world.
And then, last week at f8, Facebook made the inevitable announcement around opening up its Messenger platform.
There’s nothing new in all of this. WeChat is seen as the pioneer of all things integrated into chat and while I’m not sure what Kakao and Line are upto, am sure the east Asian economies have well honed solutions now. One wondered why Whatsapp wasn’t following suit quickly enough until this massive thrust on Facebook’s M off its Messenger platform. After all, they’re different offerings from the same company.
I like the idea of AI making commerce interfaces easier. Basically, it suggests that tomorrow a Chat will come layered with an integrated payment option and then you instruct it in plain English and the bots take over and complete the task in large parts. The easiest of these use cases to me seems like something akin to booking a movie ticket. It’s the equivalent of buying a book on traditional websites. It’s a standard product or service at a known price and at a known location – even more certainty than a restaurant booking.
When we invested in Dunzo , other than the basic ingredient of a great team, we loved the team’s pathological obsession in delighting the consumer, in lightening up their life, easing their wasteful time spent over routine or one-off tasks. When you enter the dunzo app for the first time, one is asked to and then thinks of running “tasks”.
What does it mean to run a task? – Everything from the customary laundry and errand to deliver keys to a spouse who forgot them at home or sending something over to a friend’s place across town or gifting flowers. Here are some examples from recent Dunzo activities:
Renting an oscilloscope
Renting a table for a party
Phone screen shattered (very common) but I want it in two hours before an int’l flight
Need a tee-shirt printed for today evening
Find a decorative eskimo for my Xmas party
Pigeons in my balcony – need spikes deployed
Need the heels of my Tod’s shoes fixed
Need all my kids books covered in brown paper
Forgot to dry clean for the party tonight – can it be done and returned same day?
Need to buy a stethoscope
Party planning – custom cake, custom balloons, custom graffiti
“All things local” is the way Kabeer (the co-founder and CEO) likes to describe Dunzo. It’s easy to assume that Facebook and others will not eventually try to build this in India as well (opening up their interface to partners such as uber/ola, BMS, food delivery and other horizontals – as I was drafting this, someone has announced themselves as the first partner in India) but I think this is where Dunzo will differentiate and kill it – it’s not about the 8 or 10 repeatable tasks that everyone has their apps in place for; it’s about the 100 other things that no app does since it involves the complexity of “running” a task, sometimes involving multiple legs, sometimes touching government and other local service interfaces that will not be “appified” any time soon and/or local commerce that will always be a one-off. Can Dunzo be that go-to appified layer for all things local?! That’s the billion dollar question, ain’t it?
Eventually, both approaches will converge. Bring it on M! We have our own 007s!
Dunzo is currently only delighting consumers in B’lore but will hopefully be in other cities soon.
Full stack customer service is coming to India and how! Whether it can be transformative is going to depend on the staying power and obsession of the founding team in perpetuating the notion of customer delight. The idea is to leave the likes of Uber/Ola and Flipkart/Amazon far behind in this department. Non-standard services are the new frontier for customer service. Yes, these are marketplaces but the brands that stand in the middle and build a new experience are going to be incredibly valuable over the next decade. Dunzo is one such play focusing on this new paradigm. We just furthered our commitment to this thesis by backing Servify as well, which was announced recently.
Investment announced: 2016 (Blume Fund II)
Co-investors: Aspada, Angel Investors