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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Against the backdrop of Covid, AI technology is crucial  

By Ngoc Tran

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The Saigon Times spoke to Ravi Saraogi, Co-founder & President for APAC of Uniphore, a company that offers AI and machine learning in Vietnamese, with head offices in Silicon Valley, USA, and at the IIT Madras Research Park, India. The Uniphore platform is a voice-based technology that can help machines understand and respond to natural human speech, enabling businesses to use natural communication modes and speech. Excerpts:

The Saigon Times: Why Vietnam?

Ravi Saraogi: Vietnam is one of the most exciting and among the top three markets for us in Asia. We can play a major role in turning things around with our technology and deployment. Technology has certainly emerged as a strong winner in the current scenario, especially against the backdrop of Covid. And the customer service industry has been one of the most affected sectors during this situation.

Being a rapidly growing country, Vietnam as a market is poised well to deploy new-age digital transformation services or service solutions and to ensure that it is right back on track to becoming a digitally empowered country.

What do you plan to offer to Vietnamese customers?  

– Today, Uniphore has put together our own conversational automation platform, which is capable of understanding the Vietnamese language, with the highest accuracy. This has been done by training our engines, using AI and machine learning capabilities, and natural language processing in Vietnamese.

Do you have Vietnamese people working for you?

– Absolutely. We have a big team in Vietnam, which includes developer support engineers and our own sales and marketing presence in the Vietnam market, and have been expanding over a period of time.

Where are they in Vietnam?

– Right now, most of our deployments run across Ho Chi Minh City, with some in Hanoi as well.

Do you already have call centers in Vietnam? 

– We don’t have them. We have customers whose call centers use our platform and technology. And any business in Vietnam today with a contact center or a call center can deploy our technology to achieve big business benefits.

Who are your customers in Vietnam?

– We have been in the Vietnam market for about two years. We have served some local corporate clients. We have partnerships with a couple of system integrators as well. One of our largest consumers is in the banking industry: FE Credit, a finance company under VPBank.

How do you manage the pricing for Vietnamese customers?  

– If you look at call center agents, they have to take multiple calls throughout the day to serve customers. What Uniphore does is deploy our own products across all the agents working in a call center, and the cost of the product is per-agent-per-month on a per-region-per-month basis. It can be deployed on premise or on cloud and it still remains as a service, with the billing occurring per-agent-per-month. Typically, our cost is not more than 10% of the overall agent cost for a company.

What would that be in terms of price?

– So the actual price depends on what kind of products they take, the overall scale and what kind of integrations are required. So it varies from customer to customer. But overall, the pricing model is per-agent-per-month, and usually, the cost is about 10% of the agent’s salary.

Do you have an official office in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City?

– Well, we already have a strong team in Vietnam — local engineers, local developers, etc. Our official office in Vietnam is in District 4 of Ho Chi Minh City.

Who do you see as your competitors in Vietnam?

– There might be one or two local startups dealing in similar technology, but Uniphore’s biggest differentiation is its platform-based approach and not one or two products. We work with the organization as a whole to bring in digital transformation, with the biggest differentiating factor of having this available in the Vietnamese language. So, there are no global competitors for us in the Vietnam market, but there might be one or two new startups coming along, which may have some innovative solutions. But we have a lot of differentiating factors across platform technology and local language capability.

Can you name your competitors? 

– I don’t think I can name them. UniPhore’s biggest objective is to differentiate itself and stay ahead of the curve. And every competitor who enters the market will try to do the same, differentiate themselves and emerge as market leaders. But I do think that considering where we are today in the local market in Vietnam, we have a very good market share.

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