A crowdfunding platform is using AI to change how it raises money

A crowdfunding platform is using AI to change how it raises money
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A crowdfunding platform is using AI to change how it raises money

A crowdfunding platform has turned to artificial intelligence (AI) to change how it raises money for various causes.

Milaap, which was founded in 2010 by Mayukh Choudhury, Anoj Viswanathan and Sourabh Sharma, was started with the aim of facilitating sustainable rural development. Over time, it has diversified into a platform that helps people raise money for a variety of purposes including education, medical treatment, animal welfare, social entrepreneurship, among others.

The founders believe that while the Singapore- and Bengaluru-based platform has gone some way towards bridging the gap between those in need of funds and prospective donors, there is still some work to be done.

"There are several aspects to the crowdfunding process such as opening a fundraising campaign, vetting the appeal and helping donors communicate with the campaign manager that can be streamlined and we are working on doing so with artificial intelligence as our main weapon," Choudhary told TechCircle.

The co-founder said Milaap is using AI-driven chatbot technology which it believes will help save considerable time, resources and money. 

The chatbot initially connects with someone who is looking to start a fundraising campaign.

"With the deployment of the bot, the person enters information asked by the bot in a conversational manner rather than having to fill a lengthy form," said Choudhary 

He said the bot-assisted process takes just five minutes, as opposed to 15 minutes without it. 

"This also cuts down the need of having to have 15 persons at the back-end trying to start the campaign as the AI itself can now get this done and this results in a lot of savings for us," he added.

The bot was developed in-house using open source codes and can be accessed on Facebook Messenger. 

He also said that the platform had started receiving nearly 15% of average monthly appeals (2,600) via the bot since it was launched two months ago.

The company is also looking to integrate artificial intelligence in its backend to make life easier for donors.

"We are already sitting on huge data sets about different kinds of campaigns and we have an idea about what questions are asked by donors," Choudhary said. "We will soon have a feature built into the bot that can answer the more generic queries of donors instead of them having to call our customer care or mail the campaign manager."

More and more companies have been turning to chatbot technology to help boost efficiency.

According to a report from market research firm Gartner, nearly a quarter of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) including chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, 

This will represent a significant jump as less than 2% of such operations used this technology in 2017.

Milaap

Milaap had told VCCircle last December that the platform had so far helped collect over Rs 243 crore for various charitable causes, with fund raising almost tripling every year.

For the first four years, Milaap had focussed solely on micro entrepreneurship development, small business finance and education lending. It had later added causes like natural disasters, medical emergency and tuition fee help for fundraising campaigns.

The company, which operates under the registered name of Milaap Social Ventures India Pvt. Ltd, registered revenue of Rs 4.74 crore for 2016-17 compared to  to Rs 2.4 crore in 2015-16, up from Rs 85 lakh the year before, show the startup’s filings with the Registrar of Companies accessed by VCCEdge, the data research arm of VCCircle. 

These numbers reflect 68% of the total revenue, as a part of the income is recognised under the Singapore-registered holding company, the company said, adding Milaap has many international donors.

Milaap had raised $1.8 million in multiple tranches between 2012 and 2014 from Unitus Seed Fund, Jungle Ventures and angel investors including Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

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