Expert Interview Series: Niraj Ranjan of Hiver About Using Email to Improve Business Collaboration

Niraj Ranjan Rout is the founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool. We recently spoke with Niraj about the prevalence of business collaboration and the current and future of email in the business setting.

What exactly does Hiver do for its customers?

Hiver is built primarily for collaboration around communication in general. It helps you and your team manage shared email accounts like support@mycompany.com, assign emails to each other, and see who is doing what.

To give you a simple illustration of how this might be of use, think about the publications you're pitching to on their email IDs, like tips@techcrunch.com. They would be receiving tons of pitches there, and they'd have a team to pick up articles and work on those. Hiver would help this team manage the tip@ email account efficiently and delegate tasks without confusion - without anything "falling through the cracks."

Is a tool like Hiver effective not just for companies, but also for clubs, civic organizations, and volunteer groups as well?

Yes indeed. Hiver is used by a lot of non-profits, educational institutions, and citizen bodies. In fact, two of the non-profits using Hiver are Pets for Patriots and Amani Children's Home. It fits right in wherever you have a group of people that you are collaborating with over email.

What are some of the main challenges that your customers are trying to grapple with?

Everyone loves to use email (though they do complain about it, sometimes), but using email in a group scenario can be very inefficient and tedious because you end up siloing tasks and information in individual inboxes.

For instance, it's extremely convenient to forward an email from a customer to someone in your team if you need help responding to the customer, but then it's extremely messy to keep track of all your forwards and awaited replies. That's where Hiver comes in. We make it extremely efficient to carry out collaboration and task management over email.

Why did you choose the Gmail platform as the centerpiece of your service offerings?

When we started out, Gmail/Google Apps was the most prominent cloud email offering. Also, most Gmail users use Gmail's web interface, and we as programmers loved the idea of modifying the Gmail interface with a browser extension to add more efficiency to how people use email.

We're now expanding beyond Gmail. Hiver for Exchange/Office-365 is releasing soon, and we're sure it'll do very well.

Has the rise of a virtual world and a telecommuting workforce led to an increase in demand for virtual collaboration tools like Hiver?

Absolutely! We have customers where the team does not see each other in person for weeks, and yet, they continue to work efficiently. This trend is on a strong rise; with communication tools improving so much, everyone is now questioning why they must spend hours daily driving or on a train.

Is Hiver a good tool to use to help manage or complement text message marketing, digital marketing, and/or social media marketing campaigns?

Hiver is great for managing your outreach, as well as handing off or delegating responses that you receive.

Some Internet observers think that email will gradually become obsolete in the future. Do you agree or disagree with that viewpoint?

There are two kinds of email in a business scenario: internal email within a company, and external email that comes in from people outside the company (like customers, vendors, sales leads, etc.). While internal email is under serious threat from tools like Slack, external email is definitely going to be around. Hiver is completely targeted on external email - that is, helping teams manage their customer and sales communication.

So to sum up, Email's personal use and use for internal communication in organizations are already seeing a decline, but email is going to stay strong in inter-organization scenarios - and that is what we're building on.

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