If you visit the website of Tapzo, the startup formerly known as Helpchat, you are likely to be greeted by a loading indicator that looks like the infinity symbol. As the page loads, the symbol loops into itself over and over, the symbolic head eating the tail each time over and over again.
Helpchat’s choice of the infinity symbol as the loading bar is an interesting one – the seemingly-incessant looping behavior can easily represent Helpchat itself.
Meet the Ouroboros.
The Ouroboros imperative
The Ouroboros is an ancient mystical symbol of a snake eating its own tail and is often taken to symbolize the eternal cycle, especially in the sense of something constantly destroying and re-creating itself. It also represents the infinite cycle of nature’s endless creation and destruction; life and death.
Of all the Indian startups around, Helpchat is the one that epitomizes this constant urge to reinvent itself, pivoting from one avatar to another – the head eating the tail. In fact, to the casual observer, Helpchat has recreated itself so many times that these gyrations look more like a pirouette than a pivot.
But before we get to the imperatives driving this behavior, a brief look at Helpchat’s history is perhaps warranted.
Loop 1: In Feb 2010, Ankur Singla launches Wasiyat.com in Chandigarh. Wasiyat is an online legal services company that helps people in registering their wills.
Loop 2: In August 2010, Singla moves to Delhi and restarts from a clean slate; this time offering online legal services beyond just wills to cover rent and power of attorney agreements. The new avatar is called Akosha.
Loop 3: In Jan 2011, Akosha drops everything else and morphs into a platform solely for lodging and resolving consumer complaints.
Loop 4: Shortly thereafter, One Direct, a B2B offering for brands to manage customer complaints is launched to complement Akosha, the B2C consumer-facing site.
Loop 5: In July 2015, Akosha shuts down its consumer complaint platform and pivots to become Helpchat, a “messaging-based intelligent personal assistant”.
Loop 6: In May 2016, Helpchat drops chat and transforms into an “all-in-one bundled mobile app” to help Indians “recharge prepaid mobile & DTH, pay postpaid mobile, electricity & other utility bills, book cabs/taxis & autos, order food, find best offers, deals & coupons, read news, follow trending, funny & viral stories and check live cricket scores and daily horoscope”.
Loop 6.5: In November 2016, Helpchat rather belatedly realizes that it doesn’t behoove itself to have a name that is a portmanteau of two services (Help & Chat) that it no longer offers. So it rechristens itself to Tapzo.