Imagine you’re a jetsetter on an Emirates flight from Mumbai to London via Dubai (okay, think a few months before the Coronavirus pandemic). A frequent flyer, you’re a member of the airline’s elite platinum tier. As you walk towards the boarding gate in Mumbai, your eyes are glued to the screen of your iPhone 11Pro, tracking your investments. Suddenly, the phone slips from your hand and the screen cracks on impact.
Normally, you would be worried sick. But you’re not, because you are one of Emirates’ elite customers and, as a value-added service, you can simply go to the airline’s lounge at Dubai airport and pick up a new iPhone. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is a reality made possible by a collaboration between Emirates; and global premium smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung; and an Indian startup called Servify in between, underwriting the entire process on its proprietary digital platform.
Sreevathsa Prabhakar, the founder and chief executive officer of Servify, has a simple philosophy: A customer isn’t just someone who is going to buy your product; it is also someone who has already bought your product. That is the premise on which the 43-year-old, who has worked for companies including Nokia, Tata Teleservices, LG Electronics, Samsung, and BPL, has built his entrepreneurial career. It began with a company called The Service Solutions, started in 2009, which delivered technology-driven customer service for consumer durables to the Indian clientele. That company was later sold to Germany’s B2X, a global customer service outsourcing company.
But Prabhakar’s eureka moment came with Servify, which he founded in 2015. He figured that while most consumer electronics brands were obsessed with selling to prospective consumers in innovative ways, not much thought was given to after-sales service. “People thought of service as a back-office function and a cost-centre, which is why it didn’t get much attention from brands. We thought there is an opportunity here to demonstrate that service can be used as a tool for brand loyalty and a revenue stream as well,” says Prabhakar, an electronics and telecommunications engineer by training, with a master’s in information systems from the University of Mumbai.
He cites the example of Assurant and Asurion, two U.S.-based companies in similar service lines that have billions of dollars in revenue between them.
After-sales experience is critical to earning long-term customer loyalty globally. It is even more important in an emerging and value-conscious market like India where the average life span of all consumer electronics, including smartphones, is significantly longer compared to the rest of the world.Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India
Over the years, Servify has emerged as the partner of choice for most top smartphone brands like Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and others, when it comes to digitally managing their after-sales service offerings—including warranty management, out-of-warranty servicing, assured buyback schemes, etc. Simply put, Servify’s digital platform is like an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system for after-sales service. There is end-to-end visibility and accountability from the time a customer raises a service request, to his device getting picked up and reaching the service centre, the job getting done, and the customer’s feedback on the quality of the job done. The various data points picked up along the way can be used by brands to tweak their products or processes in the future.
“Ideally we want to deliver great customer experience by protecting and servicing what matters to consumers most: all the electronic gadgets that are part of their lives,” says Prabhakar.
Appreciating the value that Servify brings to the table, brands like OnePlus and Samsung have roped in the company to take charge of their customer-focussed services in other global markets. It works with OnePlus in all international markets excluding China; and has recently started managing Samsung Care services in the U.S.
Prabhakar says that in the next two years, as much as 80% of Servify’s revenue will come from global markets, up from around 30% at present.
“After-sales experience is critical to earning long-term customer loyalty globally. It is even more important in an emerging and value-conscious market like India where the average life span of all consumer electronics, including smartphones, is significantly longer compared to the rest of the world,” says Vikas Agarwal, general manager at OnePlus India. “Early on, we pioneered pick-up and drop service for our users with Servify and the relationship has gradually evolved into a long-term strategic association wherein the entire supply chain and service infrastructure is now powered by Servify systems.”
It isn’t only smartphone brands that Servify counts as its customers. There are other diverse players in the ecosystem such as Bharti Airtel, Bose, and Amazon. Take Amazon for instance. The U.S.-based online marketplace uses Servify to screen for legitimate return requests from customers for smartphones bought from the e-tailer.
Not surprisingly, the company has caught the attention of investors and has raised money from some marquee venture capitalists. Till date, Servify has raised $25 million from investors including Blume Ventures, Beenext, and Iron Pillar. It is also in the process of closing another investment round of $15 million, which is likely to see participation from some existing investors. Interestingly, in all the investment rounds, Prabhakar has also personally invested along with the other institutional investors.
Karthik Reddy, cofounder and managing partner of Blume Ventures, says he hasn’t seen any other founder who has so much “skin in the game”, in terms of his own investment in the company, and that gives a lot of confidence to other investors.
“We invested in Servify since we saw him (Prabhakar) and his deep understanding of the value chain in his business and access to decision-makers,” Reddy says. “He has built a business that has been acknowledged by the Apple ecosystem, which isn’t easy to penetrate. There are only three or four companies in the world that can boast of doing that and they are all billion dollar-plus enterprises.”
This story was originally published in the May 2020 edition of the magazine.