Botbot.AI’s CEO Interview on HR Digital Today
Exclusive for HR Digital Today with market-leading HR Tech pioneers — Botbot.AI
Productivity across Singapore has been struggling for years.
Even though it has gone up over Q4 2018 based on flash estimates, it is due primarily to an upswing — there is some slack so companies can increase capacity without needing to hire.
Once that capacity tightens, it becomes much tougher (to produce the same gains.)
With labour cost going up, the way forward could be to leverage on another level of enterprise automation.
For Wong Hong Ting (CEO/Founder of Botbot.AI), that comes in the form of a chatbot creation platform.
1. Please share with us briefly what you do.
I’m CEO & Founder of Botbot.AI, a chatbot creation platform that focuses on creating bots to increase enterprise automation and productivity. Specifically, we have ready to deploy bots in various business functions, such as HR, finance, trading back office, facilities management and, of course, customer service. At the heart of our business is our desire to tackle underemployment and employability.
2. What were you doing before this?
For the past 8 years, I’ve co-founded and run 2359 Media, a software house that works with digital innovation teams within MNCs, GLCs and selected startups to create new mobile and cloud-first products that help them to serve their customers and organisations better. In 2009, mobile wasn’t popular (yet!), but with everyone beginning to acquire mobile devices of their own, we felt that it was a matter of time before it became commonplace, and thus embarked on creating mobility solutions that would transform the way people live and work.
3. In one sentence, how would you describe what your product does?
Botbot.AI deploys chatbots for workflow automation in enterprises, tackling menial, repetitive and transactional low-value tasks so that people can move to higher-value, high-cognition work — therefore driving productivity for enterprises and re-engaging our workforce.
4. How did the idea for your business come about?
One of the driving forces behind why I do what I do would be the aspiration of being able to maximize human potential. Underemployment and employability are problems that I hold close to heart, having mentored many youths and seeing firsthand how much time they spend on low-value work that doesn’t advance them in the least. That made me want to find a solution that would not only rejuvenate them but also, make them generative unto the workforce. On the business front, conversations with other entrepreneurs in Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) over the past 4 years has surfaced the extensive paperwork and processes that PMETs face on a daily basis — and how bogged down they are by it. The time cost and labour cost of these processes all seem necessary and unavoidable (even for the SMEs) but can actually be eased by intuitive, intelligent automation. On the other hand, there are also organizations which have integrated technology into their workflows. The irony is that whilst enterprise softwares have advanced our businesses greatly, with each software comes a steep learning curve, and at some point, we find that these complex systems have become white elephants within the organization. We’ve built many such products and we found that people still default to chat to get things done — that led us to build Botbot.AI. With chat as an interface, we hope to reduce the barriers to adoption, and truly allow enterprise software to power productivity, not stand in its way.
5. How does it work?
Botbot.AI takes in conversations from a multitude of interfaces (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype, Telegram, Alexa — basically any chat platform or web/mobile app), understands what the user is asking for, and triggers the necessary workflow in enterprise systems.
When we engage users on a platform they’re comfortable on, in a language they’re familiar with, they can forget about learning new interfaces and just focus on getting work done. With deep integrations into enterprise systems ranging from HRIS to procurement portals, time and effort from menial tasks like checking payment statuses, form-filling and conducting trades can be greatly reduced and redirected to higher-value work. Once we’ve got the execution down to a T, the organization also finds that they can tap on a new, rich source of data — conversations — to drive informed business decisions on issues ranging from supply & demand, financial trading to performance reviews.
6. What are the key benefits that your product brings?
Botbot.AI empowers organizations with the ability to focus on higher-value work. The rising cost of labour and operations in Singapore is indicative of the underutilization of the many university graduates we have now. Many of them find their employees suffocated by jobs that consist largely of rote work, and understandably so, but in the same breath, we’ll hear those same clients talk about how hard it is to find people with the skill sets they need for high-cognition work, like negotiations! People with the necessary skills could already be within the company, finding their time being occupied by endless paper-pushing or processes, and business owners would never know unless they could free these talents up enough to give them high-cognition work. Chatbots help to ease the labour-intensive rote work that companies find themselves mired by, and companies can then move their workforce to higher value work.
7. Who are your closest competitors?
Globally, there are many companies looking into enterprise automation, which is a given, seeing as how it is a market with huge potential for disruption. Rather than pinpoint competitors on a market map, we believe that organizations need to look at how our tools might find synergy and integrate with each other to create a cohesive solution that not only works seamlessly but that employees find a delight to use.
8. Who is your first customer and how did that happen?
Our first customer was a global FMCG looking to establish a research project together with a hospital on the use of chatbots for new parents-to-be. The study aimed to establish whether or not chatbots were a good vehicle for knowledge transfer and education of a market about pregnancy, and it was very exciting for us because the project gained significant traction in a very short span of time, thereby validating our convictions that chatbots could not only be a means of automating tedious workflows, but more than that, it could create immense value-add for enterprises looking for new ways to communicate with their consumers or employees. The introduction and subsequent expansion of this project into foreign markets also gave us confidence that we were taking this project in the right directions.
9. What were they using before this?
Chatbots are so new in the market that oftentimes the software they were using beforehand was simply Whatsapp, Telegram or Facebook Messenger, without the security features, without the automation, and without the artificial intelligence!
10. How do you price your product?
We custom build many of our chatbots, so an estimate would be SGD 2–5 / 1000 queries, excluding setup and integration costs, which differ greatly from company to company.
11. What’s your business focus for this year?
We’re looking to grow into regional markets in APAC through partnerships with other enterprise software companies. The potential of our cumulative efforts that we see with these companies both inspire and energize us, and we’re all just really excited about creating products that could really transform the way people work.
12. What’s one productivity tip/app/tool you can’t live without?
Todoist — partially because my team are all on it and it is much easier to delegate work on it, and more importantly, both softwares show conviction in the same empowerment that all enterprises and individuals can experience with technology!
13. Where can people find out more about your product offerings and you online?
More about Hong Ting
School: NUS B.Sc in Quantitative Finance & part of the NUS Overseas College Programme in Silicon Valley
First job: 2359 Media, right out of school!
Favorite book: Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I don’t read fiction often, but this afforded me the sensationalism of fiction with the comprehensive strategies usually presented in business non-fiction.
Favorite Film: Disney’s Hercules, because I found that its central themes resonated with me!
Favorite Music: 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky
Favorite Gadget: Simply because it never leaves my side, my iPhone, and more recently, my Apple Watch
Last holiday: Took a trip to Bali that I’d never forget, but even that was way too long ago!
Find out what Hong Ting and the team have done to augment HR workflows
Get detailed insights on how we can implement chatbot in HR workflows and its results.
Reposted from CEO Interview Botbot.AI