This article has been written by Barnali Ghosh pursuing a Diploma in Business English Communication for International Professionals and Remote Workers from Skill Arbitrage.

This article has been edited and published by Shashwat Kaushik.


In this modern high-octane and flamboyant panorama of AI and related technology, AI is playing a very pivotal role. It offers both opportunities and challenges for the users. With the all-embracing attitude to VA in businesses, startups are the most benefited. They are at the forefront of innovation by integrating it into the existing system so effortlessly. This throws them into a crossroads where they can delve deep into the transformative potentials of AI. It has become a rapidly evolving domain that is coming up with newer developments with each passing day.

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What is virtual assistance

The term “virtual assistant” today is a very common term that is widely heard. But do you actually know what it is? In simple terms, it is just the application of a programme capable of comprehending a natural human voice and the commands that it makes so that a task is completed or made easier for the user. They come in handy for companies of all sizes and types. They can handle innumerable tasks like administrative work, bookkeeping, functioning as a PA, customer service, data entry, social media production, content management, research and a multitude of other tasks.

AI in virtual assistance

In the initial days, these tasks were completed by secretaries and personal assistants of higher-up officials. It included a variety of work that was required in everyday life. To name some tasks, they included the likes of making schedules, arranging meetings & conferences, looking up phone numbers in directories & placing calls, taking dictations, reminders for appointments and even taking dictations from superiors. 

These were the mundane tasks of everyday office life performed by low-paying secretaries and personal assistants. All of that was in the past. The present is “virtual assistants,” which might be the likes of Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. The list goes on in this regard. This is the future of virtual assistance. The implementation of virtual assistants in startups can be a game-changing strategy for enhancing customer experience, streamlining operations, and gaining a competitive advantage. Virtual assistants, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies, can perform a wide range of tasks, from answering customer queries to scheduling appointments, providing product recommendations, and offering personalised support. Here’s a closer look at the benefits and considerations for implementing virtual assistants in a startup environment:

Benefits of virtual assistants in startups:

  1. Enhanced customer experience: Virtual assistants offer 24/7 availability, ensuring that customers can get assistance whenever they need it. They can handle routine inquiries, provide quick and accurate information, and escalate complex issues to human agents, resulting in a seamless and satisfactory customer experience.
  2. Streamlined operations: Virtual assistants can automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing up human employees to focus on more strategic and value-added activities. This can improve efficiency, reduce operational costs, and allow startups to scale their operations more effectively.
  3. Personalised support: Virtual assistants can leverage AI algorithms to analyse customer data, such as previous interactions, purchase history, and preferences. This enables them to provide personalised recommendations, tailored responses, and proactive assistance, enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction.
  4. Competitive advantage: In a rapidly evolving startup landscape, implementing virtual assistants can set a company apart from its competitors. By offering innovative and convenient customer support, startups can attract and retain customers, build brand loyalty, and gain a competitive edge.

Considerations for implementing virtual assistants in startups:

  1. Data privacy and security: Virtual assistants require access to customer data, so startups need to prioritise data privacy and security. They should implement robust security measures, comply with relevant regulations, and ensure transparency about data usage to build trust with customers.
  2. Alignment with business objectives: The implementation of virtual assistants should be aligned with the overall business objectives and goals. Startups should clearly define the tasks that virtual assistants will handle, evaluate the impact on customer experience and employee productivity, and track key metrics to measure the success of the initiative.
  3. Employee training and adoption: Successful implementation requires employees to understand the capabilities and limitations of virtual assistants. Startups should provide comprehensive training to employees on how to collaborate effectively with virtual assistants, ensuring a smooth transition and maximising the benefits of the technology.
  4. Continuous improvement: Virtual assistants are continuously evolving, and startups should have a plan for ongoing updates and improvements. This includes monitoring customer feedback, incorporating new features and functionalities, and leveraging advancements in AI and NLP technologies to enhance the capabilities of virtual assistants over time.
  5. Cost-benefit analysis: Startups need to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine the feasibility of implementing virtual assistants. Factors to consider include the cost of development, maintenance, and ongoing updates, as well as the potential return on investment in terms of improved customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and revenue growth.

Types of virtual assistants

When you have heard so much about virtual assistants, will you not like to hear about the distinct variety of them? It is obviously natural that this topic should be holding you intrigued and amazed today, just merely because of the fact that it has brought in technology and immense change with innovation, but at the same time it has snatched the jobs of multitudes. So here we go for the list of the variety of VAs in existence today:

  • AI chatbots: AI chatbots are a common term these days. If you analyse it carefully, you will understand they are simple programmes that aid users in communicating via text-based interfaces on various social media, websites and messaging apps. Here, the chatbots will help customers and take inquiries, wherein a discussion can be started. It uses NLP and ML for this purpose.
  • AI virtual assistants: They are VAs designed to accomplish errands most often over a variety of platforms and devices. The chores are executed employing natural language over voice-based interactions, wherein the users very expeditiously gather access to all the required information, master their calendars and also gain control over their smart appliances.  
  • Conversational agents: All along, you have been hearing about text-based VAs. Now it is time to learn about an assistant that can comprehend language, that is to say, that it can converse humanly. They can interpret complex language patterns, tell apart the requirements of the user and thus come up with the needed responses in any given circumstance. Of the variety of AIs used, this is probably the most complex of the lot. They are capable of carrying out a multitude of tasks that are complex.

Opportunities that VAs offer

There are numerous benefits that VAs offer today. Hiring them means your opportunities at business increase manifold. If you were to list all the opportunities that they offer, you could read through them and never fail to be amazed. So now let us walk through this list and see what is on offer.

Effectively streamlined and productive

VAs are even more effective and productive when it is a small entrepreneurship where it is challenging for the owner to keep pace with the entire operation of the business. Trying to juggle all the work scope along with strategizing the business leaves no time or room for the owner to come up with productivity that could bring in the desired results. Hence, using a VA could be the key to all these problems. He could leave the mundane and less significant matters for the VA while he takes care of the more complex and significant matters. 

Enhanced turnaround in dealing with time-consuming engagements 

There are certain tasks in every company that may be put aside for another time or day. That probably happens when the job is boring or time-consuming. So instead of having to battle with such uphill tasks, why not schedule them for your VA? You know they are important, but at the same time, they are tasks that might pique the interest of the doer. If you can do it effectively without having to add that personal touch to it, then VA is your answer to this problem.

Better chances at scaling operations

Today might be your startup, and tomorrow might become your big dream project. In such circumstances where there are absolutely no chances of predicting the future to enhance business operations on a large-scale, you might consider using a VA. The need to hire full-time employees or even a large number of them, can be eliminated safely. This is an extra and useful resource that comes in handy at all times.


Having an army of staff, especially for startups, is a huge burden on any owner. So why tax yourself with extra salaries and increased expenses that can actually be done away with when you can easily hire a VA? Along with salaries, you can exempt your business from all the benefits and perks that need to be given to employees. Even office space is a saver, which is another benefit added to the basket. You pay for as many hours as you use them on a contractual basis.

Customer services tweaked

Customer service is the gateway to an increase in business. So you might want to scale up your customer service without scaling up the cost of it. So what better way than to hire a VA? Your business’ social media and emails can effectively be handled without much of a-do and fussing around. Customer service, in one word, becomes more dynamic and enterprising. 

Escalated productivity that is strengthened

The productivity of the entire team has increased, and the business as a whole sees more improvement in business operations. This, in turn, makes tasks easier to do and quicker to achieve. The tasks completed are precise and upgraded, which is the cause of enhanced business. The tasks are more effectively handled because you can hire remote staff that need not waste time commuting and wasting precious energy. This leaves them more focused and attentive.

Reach gets amplified

Gone are those days when making your operation’s online presence felt strongly was an option. Today it is a compulsion because customers rely more on online shopping than ever before. In view of this, it has roughly been estimated that by 2026, global retail sales will touch the 24% mark. Thus, you should not have to experience FOMO and to keep this at bay, you need to make your mark digitally as well as physically. A digital presence is more of a necessity. The best way to achieve all this and more is to try adopting the VA way. 

There are many other opportunities that are provided by VAs these days. Apart from the above-mentioned ones, you can also experience a few more that will be discussed in brief. As has already been mentioned, the owner gets more time and energy to concentrate on the core business areas and strategies that need more of his attention and time. So that is easily reachable once a VA is employed in the business. This also improves the chances of a better work-life balance for the owner, leaving him mentally and emotionally more healthy. Such circumstances lead to better work initiation and, thereby, more opportunities for the organisation as a whole.

Challenges faced by AI in virtual assistance

When it comes to using AI for virtual assistance, there is nothing like it. It gives better outputs and business opportunities that otherwise could not have been conceived and also achieved. However, there are some considerations to navigate and challenges to be overcome. Here is a small walk-through with them.

Ethical considerations

While using AI for virtual assistance, ethical considerations are of prime importance. The user should bear in mind a few ethical principles. These principles can be named as respect for human agency, transparency, justice, privacy & data governance, social, individual & environmental well-being and accountability and oversight. 

AI has the potential to suck up numerous jobs and displace humans. So while using it, it is very important to remember that a large number of humans could lose their jobs and livelihoods, causing massive destruction to societies. Data privacy is also another concern in this area. Data theft and loss are something to ponder. There is huge potential for loss of privacy and being under constant surveillance, combined with the power of it being misused. While using AI, environmental well-being could be hampered, along with that of individuals and society at large. The practice of transparency is another area that needs focus. Malpractices and unfair or incorrect practices should be tucked far away into a remote corner while using AI in virtual assistance. 

Quality of data and its accessibility

AI is only a new kid on the block, though not so very new. However, it cannot be said with conviction that it has an extensive database of superior quality that is at the same time easily accessible. So, this aspect has to be considered carefully before wholly plunging into everything that has to do with AI, especially when it concerns itself with a business organisation.

Carbon footprint issues

In modern times, any technological advancement that can be witnessed in the scenario comes with the problem of leaving behind huge amounts of carbon footprint on Mother Nature. Here too, the same can be seen. AI consumes a lot of energy, which gives rise to the issue of environmental concerns. So there has to be a scope for constant research and evolution so that there might be reduced carbon footprints.

Melding VA into the existing system

After all, this is not rocket science. So it can therefore very easily be melded into the existing system. Once done, they do afford a lot of benefits, which, if accepted in the right way, can help an organisation move further ahead in the market. It can efficiently help manage and handle data seamlessly. 

Technical challenges

As AI is quite a new development, there are still some technicalities to be overcome. Each type of AI has its own set of challenges that have yet to be conquered. It all depends on what type of AI the user chooses. Along with the technical challenges, the price tag for each is quite high. This also adds to the woes of the user, especially if they are startups.

To overcome all the challenges and difficulties that come with this new technology, the user has to have a clear-cut goal in mind when choosing the appropriate AI that will help in carrying out the purpose of its installation.

The overall impact of AI in virtual assistance

AI, cannot be denied as the revolution of the century. It has impacted society in multiple ways. At times it can be said to have a good impact, while at others it has impacted negatively. However, even this negative impact can be conquered by learning how to navigate it and accept its existence in daily life. It becomes fluid and easy to cope with once the users understand that it is multifaceted and a multiservice product that is modifiable. It is not an archetypal kind of thing.


On a closing note, it can easily be understood that AI in virtual assistance is the next big thing to happen to the user. It does come with challenges, which, if overcome, produce beautiful and good results. However, it can also be said that there are numerous opportunities that, if capitalised, can take the user miles ahead in their time. It streamlines and transforms wherever it touches. Its impact can be effortlessly understood when you read the statistics. It is expected that there will be more than 150 million voice assistants in the US alone by 2026. And by 2025, the market size is expected to reach USD 25.63 billion. This is an indicator that, despite all the challenges and hurdles faced by it, it is an exciting opportunity that will grow by leaps and bounds in the future. 



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