Chatbot Vietnam: Thinking big despite “humble format”

May 07, 2019 | 17:02
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The strategy of developing products leveraging market needs helps Chatbot Vietnam, one of the top five of the 400 companies taking part in the Startup Viet 2018 competition, to grow by 400 per cent a year and broke even in its very first year of operation.
chatbot vietnam thinking big despite humble format
Chatbot Vietnam CEO Le Anh Tien

Buying things through Messenger, why not?

Chatbot Vietnam is specialised in providing diverse chatbot solutions embedded into popular messenger platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Zalo or Viber that answer customers’ questions and help them place orders without the need for a customer service officer.

The startup – founded by Le Anh Tien who is now CEO, and two other partners who were all born in the 1990s – came into being in November 2017 when the trend of chatbot startups began booming in Vietnam as Industry 4.0-associated disruptive technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence were unfolding their wings.

Le Anh Tien majored in Electronics and Telecommunications at the Danang University of Science and Technology and was one of 10 individuals below the age of 30 to carve out a spot on Forbes Vietnam’s People to Watchlist in 2017.

Tien and his twin-born brother have developed a raft of software solutions, winning accolades at diverse domestic and international competitions.

“We are proud of our energetic, fledgling startup and are looking forward to growing into a Vietnamese Unicorn [a startup valued above $1 billion],” said Tien.

With his current team, Tien believes that they could shortly overcome the biggest difficulties facing the chatbot format – instilling the habit of buying products through messenger applications into users.

Nearly 300,000 people are directly interacting with the Chatbot Vietnam system per month and over 68,000 fanpages have installed chatbots to assist with sales, more 7,000 of which have chosen subscription-based services packages.

Nearly 300,000 people are directly interacting with the Chatbot Vietnam system per month and over 68,000 fanpages have installed chatbots to assist with sales, more 7,000 of which have chosen subscription-based services packages.

Chatbot Vietnam serves three customer groups: businesses, state agencies, and individuals. The package for individual subscribers costs VND290,000 ($12.6) per month. The company expects to post about VND30 billion ($1.3 million) in revenue in the first six months of this year, and will continue focusing on product development before entering the market expansion stage.

“By that time, we will need at least $3 million to feed our business expansion plans, including breaking into regional markets,” Tien said.

Choosing a parasite platform

Initially, Tien and his partners founded Chatbot to serve the management of the coffee shop they operate at a co-working space. After a three-month test run, the results were beyond their expectations. The team then upgraded the model and replicated it in other locations to turn it into a commercial product.

Tien and his associates decided to set up Chatbot and chose the format for it to operate as a “parasite” on popular messenger platforms to capitalise on Vietnam’s immense development potential in this field based on the magic figures that up to 48 per cent of the Vietnamese population use social networking sites, 91 per cent of shippers use Facebook, and more than 30 million Facebook users use Messenger.

“Startups often have limited capital sources. Therefore, through integrating our service into messenger platforms and ‘leeching off’ e-commerce giants that already have tens of millions of users who are accustomed to modern purchase patterns was an effective cost-saving measure,” Tien said.

chatbot vietnam thinking big despite humble format
The Chatbot Vietnam team

Currently, the three most popular messaging apps – Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp – all belong to Facebook. Tien said that by the end of this year, when the proposed merger of these three popular messenger platforms goes through,there will be great opportunities for Chatbot Vietnam to approach new customer groups from Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as acquire more data for user behaviour analytics.

CEO Le Anh Tien is confident that in the forthcoming time the operation of Chatbot Vietnam will not be overly reliant on Facebook. As the life circle of one product often lasts for one to two years, it is a must for them to introduce new products that inherit the best attributes of the previous platform.

“Chatbot Vietnam expects to launch our new product in the middle of this month. At that time, we will need funds for our market expansion plan, including breaking into regional markets and boosting our competitiveness,” Tien said.

Surpassing more than 500 projects globally, Chatbot Vietnam was ranked 10th and listed among the top 24 projects attending the 2019 GIST Tech-I Competition finals hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Chatbot Vietnam also carved out a spot among the top 5 projects in the E-Business category at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prizes Contest 2019 which was hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (Geneva, Switzerland) under the patronage of the United Nations Development Programme.

By Hong Phuc

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