There has been no shortage of layoffs in the Indian startup ecosystem, and founders have typically announced them while expressing regret, thanking the contributions of the employees, and announcing generous severance packages. But the founder of e-commerce platform creator Dukaan seems to have a different approach.
Dukaan founder Suumit Shah has been criticized on Twitter after seemingly bragging about a new AI chatbot that caused 90% of the company’s support team to be fired. “We had to layoff 90% of our support team because of this AI chatbot. Tough? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely,” he tweeted.
The tweet could’ve ended there, but Shah went on. “The results? Time to first response went from 1m 44s to INSTANT! Resolution time went from 2h 13m to 3m 12s Customer support costs reduced by ~85%,” he exclaimed.
And if gloating about the performance improvement wasn’t enough, he then linked a whole thread of over 10 tweets on how his company had built the chatbot. Shah described in detail how a colleague came up with the idea, how it was built, and how it was deployed. He even went on to say that Dukaan had built a new product that allowed any company to also build their own AI chatbots, and even plugged its link towards the end.
The promotion of a new product while simultaneously laying off 90% of employees wasn’t taken to kindly by Twitter. “I don’t think people losing their jobs is something to boast about. Stunning lack of empathy in this thread,” wrote a Twitter user.
“This is extremely disrespectful towards all the people who were laid off. And a founder is boasting about layoffs along with a new feature in the same thread? This leaves such a bad taste for everyone who knows Dukaan and have followed its journey,” wrote another.
Others thought the thread was in bad taste. “What horrible storytelling. No emotion, no empathy,” quipped a user.
Yet others were skeptical of the claim that a chatbot could eliminate 90% of support staff. “Can you build something in 2 days to solve 90% of support requests without affecting customer service experience? I’d be skeptical. Great “AI” bots to solve generic queries have been available for years now. Maybe volumes overall are down and it’s a ruse?” wrote a user.
Some even wondered if the entire thread was a ruse to cover up for layoffs because of a funding crunch. “Make no mistake. The support team was laid off here because business is failing and funding is dry. Not because of AI,” wrote a Twitter user.
Soon the trolling began. “Shane Warne would’ve been happy to see this level of spin,” someone joked.
“What do people at Dukaan regularly smoke? I should be careful when passing their office area,” joked another user.
Dukaan’s PR attempt seems to be backfired, and perhaps for good reason. There’s widespread acceptance among the general public that the adoption of AI will disrupt many industries, but most CEOs have been careful to appear empathetic around the layoffs that it might cause. Some, such as Zerodha CEO Nithin Kamath, have gone as far as to create a new policy that said that no employees would immediately lose their jobs because of the adoption of AI technologies. The reaction to Dukaan’s post gloating about a technology that caused job losses shows that technologists of the future will not only have to build AI, but will also need to carefully manage the public reactions that the implementation of such technologies might cause.