Official chat­boxes: startup apps that can change work ways

Sep 19, 2016 06:50 AM IST

NEW DELHI: It is the ‘up next’ thing in official communication.

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HT Image

Enterprise apps (there are just two of them in India) — Flock and WorkApps — are set to change the way people communicate at workplaces. They are the Whatsapp and WeChat of workplaces — These two personal messaging apps changed the way people interact, allowing them to share pictures, videos and website links (also within chat groups).

In the US, Slack is trying to bring about a similar change, by cutting down on office emails. The application allows you to chat with colleagues, share PowerPoint presentations, create teams, have discussions with people sitting in different parts of the town and the world and do video conferencing, all through one app, making work more effective and efficient. Besides Slack, there’s Face at Work, Facebook’s enterprise app. It does not have personal posts, games or ads, but instead offers newsfeed, work chat (instead of messenger), groups, and video and voice chat.

In some ways, Flock is the Indian counterpart of Slack, though founder and CEO Bhavin Turakhia refutes the follower tag. “Flock as a thought process started much before Slack came into existence,” says Turakhia.

Since its alfa launch in September 2014, Flock has got 250,000 downloads, and a daily active user base of 30,00-40,000. An analysis of data collected by the company shows that 60% of its users have halved their email usage, while 10% have done away with in-person meetings.

The company is further looking to cash in on the 300 million active internet users in India.

“But there will be a lot of competition,” admits Turakhia.

In offices, there are normally three buckets for collaboration apps — the first is for productivity, through task management, time-keeping and efficient work-flow. The second bucket, where Flock sits, is communication apps like emails and instant messaging. The third bucket is of accounting, sales monitoring and payroll software.

But Flock also integrates the first and third bucket. The payroll department can send play slips through a Flock chat, and the sales team can set and send individual sales targets.

“The better the integration with other apps, higher is Flock’s chance to succeed in the market,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst at technology consultancy Greyhound Research. Flock is a repository of disparate apps, including Dropbox, Google docs, Twitter, Trello, Github, Jira and Bitbucket.

It is also easy to use — once an organisation has subscribed to Flock, employees can download the app and use it for free. Flock will charge $3 per user (which it doesn’t at the moment) in case users want to preserve data beyond a month.

Flock’s domestic rival, WorkApps, on the other hand, falls under the first category of enterprise apps. Launched three months ago, it already has large companies, including like HDFC, UTI, Piramal, THub and Prudent, as customers. “All these companies are realising that emails are not always the best way of communication,” says Rudrajeet Desai, founder and CEO, WorkApps.

The application allows you to create, assign and grade tasks, form groups for discussions, and do performance analysis – all on a single platform. For example, on an average, to open a bank branch, 170-180 people are required. All these people can be present on WorkApps and will stay updated without having to read emails. The app also allows you to summon a person for a specific job, even if her number is not stored, as it contains details of everyone.

According to Desai, managing tasks at workplaces is the most difficult part of the job. Technology can help in reducing the burden, and also improve productivity by 20% to 25%.

Flock, meanwhile, has moved up another level. It offers a personal chat assistant, or a chat bot, to users. It notifies the user when an assigned task is done, can create a to-do list, set reminders, and even order a cup of coffee. The only catch: it can’t get you your cuppa.


    Sunny Sen was part of Hindustan Times’ nationwide network of correspondents that brings news, analysis and information to its readers. He no longer works with the Hindustan Times.

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