Gupshup - Messaging Platform
Founded in 2004, GupShup is the leading conversational messaging platform.
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Founded in 2004, California-headquartered Gupshup is a leading conversational messaging platform. It provides its application programming interface (APIs) to businesses for effective customer engagement across numerous communication channels. This includes chatbots, bot-building tools, omnichannel inbox capabilities, conversational AI, and client-side software to manage communications.
In 2021, it became India’s 10th unicorn after raising $100M in a Series F financing round led by Tiger Global Management propelling its valuation by ten-folds to $1.4 billion. The company’s last funding was in July where it raised $240M in the same Series F financing round.
The company’s client base consists of top companies like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google, Ola, ICICI, Oyo, Truecaller, Zomato, Flipkart, Unilever, Linkedin, Paytm, Vogue, Reliance and more. It is also backed by investors like Fidelity Management and Research Co. Llc, Tiger Global Management Llc, Think Investments Llc, Malabar Investments, Harbor Spring Capital Llc, Helion Venture Partners, and Charles River Ventures. It caters to over 39,200 brands, powers over 6 billion messages a month, and has delivered more than 300 billion messages to date.
Business Overview & Products
Gupshup IP (GIP)
Google Business Messages
Conversations: Bot builder, conversational marketing
BOT development services
Food and Beverage
1-Click Bill Pay
The company operates across India, South Asia, the US, UAE, and Latin American countries.
How It Works
Gupshup helps businesses interact and manage customer requirements through AI-powered conversations on messaging apps across marketing, commerce, and support workflows.
In order to make the conversational experience seamless for customers, the company offers Gupshup GIP, an IP-based service for smartphones that enables interaction on any device globally without requiring any app download. Gupshup also provides useful features like two-way conversations and the ability to send messages with heavy attachments like images, audio, video, documents. Moreover, users are also offered the option to share their photos and locations, along with advanced attributes like structured cards and interactive buttons.
Gupshup GIP has two flavors: GIP Native which is embedded in a native messaging app and works on certain phone brands; and GIP Widget, embedded in a chat widget that works on all devices.
The app also offers numerous AI models for message categorization and natural language processing. For instance, on-device models analyze incoming messages and classify them accordingly into categories and subcategories like “transactional”, “banking” and “credit alert”, thus creating visualizations for elements in the message including receipt amounts, account numbers, and codes. Meanwhile, server-side models interpret customer queries sent to chatbots, enabling the chatbots to detect the intent behind messages and respond appropriately.
To launch the AI-powered Smart SMS, Gupshup has partnered with OnePlus. The collaboration aims to create buckets for people on the messaging app like OTP, promotional, transactional, etc. Moreover, users do not have to worry about privacy invasion as the AI software does not send any data to the server, instead, it runs entirely on the device.
Business Model & Pricing
Gupshup now has a business-to-business (B2B) model after trying a business-to-consumer model which they failed to monetize. The company’s major source of revenue comes from providing messaging tools to businesses. These charges are based on the volume of messages that are sent using GupShup across different messaging channels. The pricing also varies from country to country, for instance in India the charge is $0.1 cents to either send or receive a session message, and $0.5 cents to send a Highly Structured Message (HSM).
Gupshup reported 80% revenue growth from pre-pandemic times and closed 2020 with an annual revenue run rate of around $150M. The startup has been profitable for a while now and claims to have an EBITDA margin (profit margin before interest, tax, depreciation & amortization) of 20%.
In 2021, the company became India’s 10th unicorn after raising $100M in a Series F financing round increasing its valuation ten folds to $1.4B. After raising $250M for share buyback in its last funding round, the company is planning an initial public offering (IPO) in the next year. It has also set up an office in Dubai to support its expansion plans in the region and has also expanded its top deck by adding seven new vice-presidents (VPs) to its executive team.
Gupshup provides its application programming interface to over 100,000 developers and businesses for customer engagement across more than 30 communication channels delivering over 6 billion messages per month.
Beerud Sheth (LinkedIn) – CEO and Co-Founder at GupShup. Beerud, an MIT graduate founded Elance (now known as Upwork), the online freelance platform that pioneered the gig economy. He also worked as AVP at both Merril Lynch and Citibank Securities Corp.
Rakesh Mathur (Linkedin) – Chairman and Co-Founder at GupShup. Rakesh, an IITian has numerous startups to his name. He founded Junglee, Stratify, SnapStick, JustChalo, Droptalk, Whiterabbit.ai, and percipient.ai. He also served as a CEO at Fizz, Flywheel Software, and as Vice President at Amazon.
History & Evolution
In 2004, Beerud Sheth was approached by Rakesh Mathur, an accomplished entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. The two came together to launch Webaroo, an offline search engine.
In 2007, the two founders were struggling with their startup when the mobile phone became revolutionary and experienced mass-market adoption. Rakesh and Beerud decided to leverage the power of SMS and rebranded Webaroo to SMS Gupshup, a Twitter-like community site that enabled users to join groups of their interests and get updates through SMS. It was a free service that allowed users to send messages to all their followers, no matter how many and the telecom operator would be charged for those messages. However as the network got bigger, it got harder to subsidize the cost of sending messages even though telecom operators got a huge volume of users. As a result, SMS Gupshup started hemorrhaging money, being able to neither monetize nor subsidize.
In 2010, SMS Gupshup decided to pivot from a B2C business model to a B2B one. The company was rebranded yet again to Gupshup, an enterprise messaging platform. It would help businesses build conversational experiences among marketing and sales and send messages on their behalf like OTPs, sales support and booking, and payment confirmations.
In 2020, Gupshup won the Grand Challenge backed by Gates Foundation for enabling payments on feature phones in India.
In 2021, Gupshup acquired Dotgo, a Rich Communications Services (RCS) startup. The company became India’s 10th unicorn after raising $100M in a Series F financing round. It was also recognized as one of the Best Artificial Intelligence Enterprise Chatbots of the year. It was also eyeing an IPO for 2022 and forayed into UAE as part of its expansion plan in the region.
In 2022, Gupshup acquired Knowlarity Communications, an artificial intelligence-powered cloud communication startup.
In December 2021, Gupshup launched a Whatsapp-based commerce solution that aims to help businesses create a digital storefront on Whatsapp. Courtesy of this solution, businesses can now manage the entire buying experience online with pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase conversations. Initially, businesses present their products through images and organized product details. Once consumers find a product they like, they then add it to their cart on Whatsapp and interact with sellers regarding any queries that they might have. Payment for the product is made through GupShup’s 1-Click Bill Pay link.
Suggested starting points to dive deeper
Listen to Conversational Messaging Podcast by Gupshup on TuneIn (Tune In, 2021)
How Gupshup Uses AI (Kumar Gandharv, Analytics India Made, Aug ‘21)
Gupshup digitises hundreds of restaurant outlets across India with conversational commerce (BW Hotelier, July ‘21)
From SMS Era To Internet Age, This Unicorn Helps Enterprises Build Strong Customer Relation (Debarghya Sil, Entrepreneur Europe, May ‘21)
How Gupshup Turned Into A Profitable Unicorn Despite A Pivot And Two Near-deaths (Rajiv Singh, Forbes India, April ‘21)
20 Things You Didn't Know About Gupshup (Money Inc, ‘20)