Indonesian artificial intelligence startup PT Jualan Online Indonesia today officially launched its chatbot service Bang Joni in Jakarta.
The service is available exclusively on LINE Messenger; it enables users to book airline and intercity bus tickets, call an Uber, check the weather, translate a word, and even top-up phone credits through a messenger bot named Bang Joni (“brother Joni” in the Jakarta dialect).
Bang Joni is also able to remind users of their frequent transaction.
“We aim to make life easier for lazy people,” said Bang Joni CEO Diatce Harahap.
Since it went live in late 2015, Bang Joni claimed to have secured 400,000 users and have assisted 37,224 transaction by April 2017.
It partners with leading brands such as Uber, Skyscanner, Tiket.com, X-Trans, Tomato, and Loket.com.
The startup has raised a US$2 million Series A round from an undisclosed local investor, which it used to expand the business.
A competitive advantage
Bang Joni is definitely not the first and only startup in Indonesia that is offering B2C chatbot as a service.
But the journey has been difficult for startups in this sector: HeloDiana ceased its service in April 2016, reportedly due to lack of funding, while YesBoss had to close its B2C service and pivoted into B2B with the launch of Kata.ai.
What enables Bang Joni to succeed where other had failed?
According to Harahap, the answers are revenue and innovation.
“Transaction is a certainty: our merchants are selling something, we are also selling something,” Harahap said.
“The secret is to keep innovating, which is why we released the second version of the chatbot, that is more user friendly and smarter,” he added.
Harahap also mentioned that part of Bang Joni’s strength lies in its ability to read and respond in Indonesian slang words, which differs greatly with the formal form of the language.
“Nobody chats in formal language. This gives us its own unique challenge as nobody speaks Indonesian in its proper sentence structure. It’s easier with English,” Harahap explained.
During a demo session at the launching event, Harahap showed how Bang Joni responds to even absurd requests such as “Find me a girlfriend, Joni.”
The chat bot then replied with “Can’t help you with that, bro. But how about booking an airline ticket for the weekend? You might come home with a new date.”
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Brother Joni has a plan
For the year 2017, Bang Joni hinted upcoming new features such as adding the ability to detect local Indonesian dialects such as Javanese and Sundanese.
It also plans to further develop its internal cashless payment system BJ Pay.
“Currently users can only use BJ Pay to pay for phone credits top-up, but hopefully in the future we can use it for all available services,” Harahap said.
Harahap also hinted plans for Bang Joni to branch into internet-of-things (IoT) sector.
“It’ll be cool if we can ask Bang Joni, ‘Bang, please turn off the AC’,” he hinted.