Tentacle Co-founders Sumontro Roy and Rahul Arora

Tentacle Co-founders Sumontro Roy and Rahul Arora

Setting up a call centre is no mean task. As an SMB, you need to make huge investments in infrastructure and workforce to get a call centre up and running, and even that doesn’t guarantee that you will not have to juggle spreadsheets and other online registers.

A Mumbai-based startup wants to bring a change to this call centre ‘dilemma’. It makes sure that you build a telecall centre without making an up-front investment.

Tentacle, as it is named, can be used for telecalling, lead management, customer relationship management (CRM) and field-force tracking by companies of any size.

“The Indian outbound calling market is following the global trend of moving to cloud-based solutions. The advantages include zero CapEx, no hardware or infrastructural problems, ease of use and an instant startup. This has resulted in the market shifting away from the old legacy call centres that had extremely high CapEx, massive operational and human resource attrition issues. Here is where Tentacle fits in,” says Co-founder and COO Sumontro Roy.

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Started in 2012 by Roy and Rahul Arora (CEO), Tentacle can be used by businesses to make outbound calls as part of their business process, which includes sales, customer service, debt collection, lead generation, appointment setting, market and customer research, cross-selling and upselling.

No hardware required

The product does not use any primary rate interface (PRI) or landlines; calls are done from the SIM card. There is no centralised telecom infrastructure or other associated costs and no hardware is required. All you need is a smartphone.

“Clients can sign up on our website and create an account using their email ID. The account will become fully operational within a few minutes. Access and authority levels can be set by the user according to the hierarchy levels within the organisation,” Roy explains.

For instance, a manager can upload calling lists using his laptop (for example, upload an Excel sheet) and assign them to telecallers, who can begin calling using their phones immediately.

Apart from the manager’s laptop and the telecaller’s phone, no other software, coding, wiring or on-site server is required.

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“Furthermore, managers can monitor all activity from their location using real-time call analytics and reports. [Managers can, for example, keep an eye on the] number of calls made, leads converted, call-backs scheduled, quality of data being used, telecaller performances, field agent performances and call recordings.

Telecallers need not be at the same location as the manager. They can be based anywhere— same office, different office, different cities, work from their homes etc,” he adds.

Current cloud telephony is made only for outbound calls

According to Roy, the current cloud telephony service providers started with providing purely Inbound services. It was only after they received repeated client enquiries about outbound services that they added outbound as an afterthought.

In his view, existing cloud telephony service allows clients to make only outbound calls from a landline.

“The way this system works is that two calls are made — one, to the prospect and two, to the agent. Once both calls are connected, the conversation begins. But this model has many shortcomings, including time lags and call drops. In addition, it is also operationally cumbersome. Importantly, the cost incurred by the client is for two calls. This cloud telephony offering also does not provide in-depth call analytics and insights that Tentacle provides,” he observes.

Tentacle can be used by any company that has an outbound calling requirement — from single user to multiple. The product fits in to meet the requirements of MSMEs/SMBs and large enterprises in sectors such as BFSI, telecom, debt collection, education, retail wellness, resorts, BPOs and even NGOs.

Roy claims Tentacle already has 1,000 paying users. At the current rate of acquisition, the startup expects to triple it by the end of the year. Its clients include Aviva (insurance), Vibes (retail wellness), Om Sai (debt collection) and Centre For Fund Raising (NGO).

A SaaS product, Tentacle is available on a pay-as-you-use model. The app is currently available only on Android.

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Opportunities galore

Talking about the market size, Roy says that the Indian BPO/calling market had a huge topline of approximately US$150 billion in 2014-15. In addition, there are approximately 50 million SMBs in the country.

Converting even a small percentage of that client base makes it a massive opportunity.

“Globally, the market for contact centre software is approximately US$10 billion, of which about 10 per cent is cloud software. Not only is the market growing, the share of cloud-based contact centres will also rapidly increase. This makes it a massive addressable market for Tentacle,” Roy says confidently.

“Tentacle is in sync with the ongoing global shift of call centres moving to SaaS-based cloud software telecalling. We have increasing International signups and have just begun promoting the product internationally,” he adds.

However, challenges are aplenty. At a macro level, there is a lack of awareness amongst clients about the benefits of our outbound calling service that uses new-age technology, he says .

“While some verticals (BPOs, BFSI and telecom) are quick to realise the benefits of Tentacle, there are others that need to be educated. This is largely the latent market. What it means is that those who have always had the need for outbound calling as a critical part or improvement to their business process were unable to implement any outbound calling thus far due to the severely limiting factors of historically available options,” he mentions.

Roy studied and worked in the US for several years. He holds an MBA degree from The College of William and Mary in California.

His fellow Co-founder Arora is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in startups. In the past, Arora started Gnet, a premier Business Intelligence solutions company, which he successfully exited in October 2014.

He holds a MS in Computer Science from Boston University.

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