The CEO of an India-based e-commerce company said it was “absolutely” necessary to fire 90% of his customer support team because an artificial intelligence-backed chatbot outperformed them — slashing response times down to minutes that previously that had stretched beyond two hours.
Suumit Shah, the 31-year-old founder and CEO of Bangalore-based startup Dukaan — which assists merchants in launching digital storefronts and selling products online — shared the news in a now-viral tweet posted on Monday.
“We had to layoff 90% of our support team because of this AI chatbot. Tough? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely,” he wrote.
He added that the tech made response times on Dukaan go from one minute and 44 seconds “to INSTANT!”
Shah also shared that the AI chatbot took about three minutes to respond to customers’ queries, while his team of humans took more than two hours.
The firings reduced Dukaan’s customer support costs by about 85%, he added.
Shah then ended the Twitter thread by announcing: “P.S. We’re hiring for multiple roles at Dukaan,” calling on AI, e-commerce and product design experts to apply.
However, other Twitter users weren’t convinced that making such drastic cuts to his workforce was the answer to integrating AI.
“We’ve lost all empathy, have we?” one user replied, noting that laying people off over Zoom would be “much better than whatever this is.”
“As expected, didn’t find any mention about the 90% staff that were laid off. What assistance were they provided?” another asked.
Yet another post — which garnered more likes than Shah’s own post despite having only a fraction of the views — said Shah axed workers “because business is failing and funding is dry. Not because of AI.”
“Dude, you disrupted the lives of 90% of your support team & you’re celebrating it in public. You also likely destroyed your customer support,” one tweet said, while yet another advised: “How not to announce layoffs.”
Shah told Insider that the layoffs happened in September, when 23 of its 26 support staff were handed pink slips.
Dukaan now employs 60 people — only three of which are now on its customer support team, the outlet reported.
Shah said his “monthly budget” for customer support is now just $100.
Heading up Dukaan’s artificial intelligence efforts is Ojasvi Yadav, according to Shah’s Twitter thread, which has been viewed more than 2 million times since it was posted.
“This kid is ahead of the pack when it comes to AI,” Shah wrote, noting that Yadav came up with a “working demo” of an in-house AI chatbot for Dukaan in just one day.
“The bot was answering almost all common questions about Dukaan instantly & accurately,” the chief executive said, noting that “answers fell short” on “account-specific questions like ‘why has my payout been pending for 2 days?’”
Just 24 hours later, Yasav “came up with another demo” that fixed glitches related to account-specific questions.
The bot was then named Lina and was integrated into the site.
The Post has reached out to Dukaan for comment.
Meanwhile, over in the US, AI has taken jobs away from nearly 4,000 Americans in May alone.
More than 80,000 jobs were cut in May, according to the analytics firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, which cited market and economic conditions as well as mergers and acquisitions as key factors.
But some 3,900 of those jobs were lost because of AI, the firm said.
It was the first time that the tech has been blamed for workers being unemployed.
Tech titan Elon Musk has long warned the public of the dangers of AI, cautioning that even a “benign dependency” on these complex machines can threaten civilization.
In late March, he even signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause in the training of advanced AI models like ChatGPT — arguing the systems could pose “profound risks to society and humanity.”
The message, organized by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute — which is primarily funded by the Musk Foundation — was signed by more than 1,000 people and called for an industrywide pause until proper safety protocols have been developed and vetted by independent experts.
However, not even six months after Musk signed off on the letter, he launched his own AI model and ChatGPT rival, a startup dubbed xAI.
The reason for the launch of xAI is “to understand the true nature of the universe,” said Musk, who also co-founded OpenAI — the company behind ChatGPT — but later left the startup credited with sparking the generative AI frenzy.
Dan Hendrycks, who serves as the director of the Center for AI Safety, a nonprofit that aims to reduce the risks posed by the technology, will be an adviser to xAI.
The rest of the startup’s team includes several former engineers and scientists from Alphabet-owned Google, Microsoft and OpenAI.
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