Neerav Parekh, CEO, vPhrase
Based in: Mumbai, India
Company website: https://www.vphrase.com
Neerav Parekh is the founder and CEO of vPhrase. Neerav has more than a decade’s experience working in different roles and setting up businesses in Technology, Marketing and Finance. After completing his MBA, Neerav worked at Citibank and then co-founded startups in technology and marketing space before founding vPhrase.
vPhrase helps companies make their reports easy to understand by explaining the insights in words, using AI. The company’s patent pending platform, Phrazor, analyses data, derives insights and then communicates those insights, in words, in multiple languages. It automates the work of analysis and communication which is the forte of expensive domain experts and it does this at a fraction of their cost. The insights and nuances that one can explain via words cannot be explained using charts and tables alone.
Phrazor writes personalised narratives for each employee highlighting all the important points which need attention. With vPhrase’s narrative based reports, employees spend less time on understanding what has happened and more time on taking actions.
How did you come about setting your focus on this particular category? Please tell us a little more about the company’s beginnings as well.
While I was running a digital marketing agency, I found that my clients always wanted my account managers to visit them and personally explain the campaign performance even though we used to send out a nice report with beautiful charts. On digging I found that the clients used to get overwhelmed with the reports and found it difficult to understand them. That is when I started wondering what changes do I need to make to the report to ensure anyone reading it is able to understand it.
What is it that my account managers do which solves this problem of understanding? Well, they interpret those charts and explain the insights in words which the clients quickly understand. How could I automate this process of interpretation of data and communication of insights in words. That is when the idea of building a product was born. And when I started thinking of the product I realised the enormous potential it had to change the way data was understood not just in digital marketing but in every other place where data was being presented, which was literally in every company. Every company has to send performance reports to its employees or to its customers.
What transformations have you undergone as a company since starting up?
We’ve gone through the same process a typical software product startup would go through. Initially, the focus was on developing the product using continuous feedback from early adopters. Then the focus shifted to identifying the right price and achieving a product-market fit. Post that, the focus now is on scaling up.
In terms of team composition, we were a team of software engineers and data scientists when we started off but now we also have added business folks to the mix.
How much has the increasing awareness about AI among stakeholders led to businesses embedding a solution as yours? Any specific industry trends identified in recent times that contributed as well?
The increasing awareness about AI helps us get our foot in the door, but the solution sells basis the value it delivers. At the end of the day, after cutting all the hype, clients want to see if the solution solves their problem or not in a ROI positive manner.
The fear of losing business to young tech startups is also prompting large organisations to adopt newer technologies.
Thoughts on the present current Asian fintech landscape through vPhrase’s perspective? How is it faring between the Singapore, Hong Kong & India?
I think it is hottest in India followed by Singapore and then Hong Kong. There is a plethora of fintech startups trying to solve large problems around payments, financial inclusion, etc. From vPhrase’s perspective, we see little difference between clients in the three countries. All of them face the problem we solve and are equally keen on adopting new technology. However, the price they are willing to pay differs.
You were part of the SuperCharger accelerator in Hong Kong recently. Could you please share some insight with us on the local ecosystem and the overall experience?
Have not spent sufficient time in Hong Kong to understand it fully, but with whatever I’ve understood, Hong Kong still seems to be in the early stages of adopting new technology. Businesses are curious and want to know more but don’t seem ready yet to invest.
The experience with SuperCharger was fantastic. The best part was that they first selected the cohort and then designed the program basis what help the cohort wanted. They introduced us to prospects, mentors and investors. We signed up pilots with two large financial services companies through the introductions given by them.
Please tell us a little about your funding journey – the requirements & objectives in mind when you decided to raise a round/s; the fit you found or were looking for with your investors; what would you be looking for in the future as the business grows?
When we last raised, we were in fact not looking out to raise money. We happened to meet our angel investor at some event, more for mentoring, but then discussions happened where he explained how we can use the extra money to grow faster. I agreed and we raised. Our angel investors have turned out be really helpful. They’ve helped us with both strategy as well as business development. We are currently looking at raising USD 2 MN to fund our new product development and expansion into ASEAN market. We already have a lead investor who has committed half the round.
What are the main areas of interest for you and vPhrase in the next 1 year?
Our focus in the coming year is on expanding into the ASEAN market, especially Singapore and Hong Kong. We already have pilots on with 4 leading financial institutions in these countries.
We also plan to develop our Phrazor platform further. Phrazor uses AI to summarise data and auto-generate insights from it. We plan to launch a self-service version of it in the next quarter and also add Mandarin and Japanese languages to it.