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A Chat-based bot developed by IIT graduates : Niki – an Android mobile app

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EFY Times.com | Saturday, December 19, 2015 |

Niki, developed by a group of four IIT Kharagpur graduates, now has 5,000 users, Niki – an Android mobile app is chat based automated Ordering chat-bot that helps you order anything in the shopping gamut. Niki understands human language in the context of products, services that consumer would like to purchase, guides along with recommendations to find the right service and makes the purchase with In-chat payment. Currently, It performs end-to-end transactions on Recharge, Cab Booking & Bill Payments. Sachin Jaiswal, CEO & Co-founder of Niki shares his experience and future plans in a conversation with Belal Khan of EFY Times.

Can you tell us more about the app?

Niki is an AI powered bot to simplify ordering experience, works through a simple chat interface. Being a chatbot that understands human language in the context of products/ services that user would like to buy, it makes apt recommendations based on user’s preferences to guide her along the transaction and completes the purchase with first of its kind in-chat payment (via Paytm wallet). The standard payment gateway option, of-course, always exists. In the first phase of launch, Niki has three services – Recharge, Cab Booking & Postpaid bill payments, that are catered end-to-end. Lot more services such as bus ticketing, utilities, movie ticketing etc.. will be added in the months to come. It aspires to be a fully realized personal shopping assistant of choice for one & all.

Recharge: Ask Niki for recharge plan recommendations based on your preferences (amount, data size or validity) and it comes up with the apt suggestions. After picking up a plan, payment can be made via the first of its kind Paytm wallet integration or through the online payment option. Also, recharging other’s number is made easy with Niki.

Cab Booking: Niki gets you the all the available cabs around you at any moment. You can ask Niki for the cheapest/ nearest cabs or pick a cab by model. You can book a cab, get the cab & driver details & track the cab – everything from Niki for both Ola & Uber.

Postpaid Bill Payment: Niki helps you pay your postpaid bills on the go! Just enter the bill amount & pay it via Paytm wallet or the online payment option in the app.

How did it all start? When was the idea conceived and how much time did it eventually take to culminate?

It was around the early part of this year that we were discussing about the developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence and how it can simplify communication with consumers. Technology has always interested the 4 of us (co-founders of niki.ai) and we decided to take up the challenge to build a product in this field. We started shooting ideas across – voice, chat, bot, automation, customer service, ordering, commerce – everything popped up. We did however realize that we needed to be extremely focused to build an accurate product that many people could use. Commerce is the right industry to target – there is a need to cut the noise around the maze of apps to a more simple and personalised buying experience. We, ourselves, being the victim of slow internet and low memory phones which hampered the ordering experience felt a need for a simple interface for all of the purchasing. The answer lied in a messaging chat-bot which could simplify online ordering experience to begin with.

Who are your target users and how many are using it presently?

Every common man with a smartphone comes under our marketing radar. Our target audience include urban & rural people alike, that are fed up with lots of apps/ have low memory on their phones or anyone in general. Niki serves 5k plus users currently and has an ever increasing user base.

How do you want to take it forward?

We’ve partnered with the big merchants like Paytm, Ola, Uber & more to bring in their services onto Niki. Lot more services such as bus booking, movie ticketing, food ordering etc… will be added to Niki in the months to come. We’re working towards making Niki a one stop solution for all ordering needs. The Niki app is very light (3.6 MB apporx.) and works seamlessly on 2G. The simple built ensures that Niki addresses most of the common problems that plague the smartphone users.

What are your thoughts on the current state of technological development and mushrooming start ups in India?

Technological developments have been advancing the pace of globalisation in India, making more people aware of the of the benefits of technology. While that’s a welcome sign, the mushrooming of startups can’t always be appreciated. Startups that have right product market fit will stand out from the noise and rise with the imminent technological wave. The non-scalable startups without proper technical infrastructure & with resource deficit will dwindle.

How do you see government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative?

Digital India initiative by the government of India is a revolutionary project that helps the rural and urban people enjoy the benefits of internet connectivity, e-services & e-education. Digital literacy is a need of the generation. Niki is working along the same lines to bring in all services under the shopping gamut on to a simple chat app, making it accessible to the common man. Niki app works seamlessly on 2G helping rural people benefit from technology for their day-to-day ordering needs.

What are the biggest problems faced by tech start-ups? What are the problems you faced when you launched the company?

Finding good resources is a challenge for many startups. Working towards an MVP (minimum viable product) is again a challenge, with various considerations such as product market fit, scalability etc… Product ideation, building architecture, beta testing and ensuring that the app works on slow internet connections (2G) have been our challenges during the course of product development. The poor Internet infrastructure in India adds to the burden & impedes the reach of latest technologies to the masses. Tech-first startup like ours, also share that trouble.

Is there any technical challenges that you are facing?

Catering to vernacular languages has been a challenge. We are working towards achieving that. / Courtesy

http://www.niki.ai/  /    http://niki.ai/app


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