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How AI Technology Helped These Startups in Asia Pacific Get Ahead In Their Industries AI is really no longer an intimidating technology

By Eddie Ybanez

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Only ten years ago, most people thought of artificial intelligence as a technology made for the futuristic world— of flying cars and having robots as friends a la The Jetsons. But in 2019, AI is really no longer an intimidating technology. Most don't realize that some of the apps and services they regularly use today employ AI to deliver their functionality. And why not? With AI, one can have millions of data analyzed in seconds to streamline processes that were once handled by multiple employees. According to Juniper Research, retailers are expected to spend $12 billion on AI services by 2023, more than triple the amount the industry spent in 2019, at $3.6 billion.

Most of these companies use "deep learning", a category of AI technology which leverages supercomputers to mimic or pattern its functions to that of the human brain. Doing so helps it to analyze and process data in a smarter way. Thinking of it in this light: if computers could only answer arithmetic questions before, today they can handle calculus problems in a few seconds.

Below are some of the prime examples of how some apps and services became trailblazers in their respective industries, thanks partly to their use of AI:


One industry that has thrived on its smart use of "machine learning" is the ride-hailing platform Grab. Its backend AI technology has enabled it to tweak and develop a more reliable platform for drivers and passengers. Thanks to the vast amount of GPS trails the platform have collected, the company has developed a more accurate map on the app for drivers and users, giving them better estimates on travel time and routes. In the future, Grab is also looking into developing a new feature that will enable the platform to turn photos sent by users into accurate addresses, helping drivers to locate passengers even better.

Again, it's a technology that benefits all parties on the platform — passengers can get home faster, while drivers can earn more from completing more trip requests.

Chatbot PH

From these examples, it's already apparent that if there's one business task AI has already started to revolutionize, it's customer service. And in the Philippines, a startup took a step further into a future where computer and human interaction is more deeply integrated.

Two-year-old Chatbot PH offers businesses a way to efficiently respond to customer queries online through chatbots and AI-driven messaging.

Instead of having a social media manager personally answer every customer concern online, Chatbot PH's "conversational bots" can do the dirty work instead for businesses, thanks to the startup's programming magic. The startup creates the ideal customer service agent for a certain company, one who can efficiently respond to their customers' most common inquiries.

It does this with machine learning—as the chatbot deals with more customers, it becomes a better responder, delivering increasingly more informed answers. It's especially helpful for those in consumer industries, like food and beverage and telecommunications, which deal with customers on a daily basis.

The startup has the promise to become the next main industry partner of businesses everywhere. Clearly aware of this potential, paper manufacturer Sterling Group of Companies bought the startup for an undisclosed amount, just 18 months after it launched.

While some have feared the new tech would leave thousands without jobs, experts say it's a good opportunity for the call center industry, especially in the Philippines, to upskill its talents so they can be better equipped to the demands of businesses in the near future.


While fairly new in the insurance industry, insurtech Saphron is also pioneering a new AI-enabled tech with its platform NAN.AI. A wordplay on the Filipino term for mother, "nanay" and AI, the platform enables its microinsurance agents, most of whom are moms, to enroll clients, monitor policies, and initiate claims at a much quicker pace than paper-based transactions. Through deep technology, the company is able to develop a platform that will let agents track his or her business anytime.

CEO Lorenzo Chan said the new tech can cut as much as two to three months' worth of waiting spent by clients, as insurance agents no longer need to spend hours encoding documents.

It's a revolutionary platform for the industry, one that could not only help bridge the gap between insurance and the unbanked, but may also change the way traditional companies do business. With its immense potential, it's no surprise the company had already completed a $1million seed funding round this past March, a few months after it was launched.


In this extremely competitive environment, where businesses are not only battling against peers but the tide of new technology as well, job-matching has become a critical process for human resource departments so enterprises are equipped with the right talents to thrive.

Job marketplace Kalibrr acknowledged this pressing need in 2016 when it launched its AI-powered recommendations tool. The company says the feature runs on two algorithms: relationship matching, where the program creates better search results based on the user's interactions in the platform; and content matching, where the results are based on the descriptions of each job posting.

It's a sophisticated tool that aims to bridge the usual problems faced by human resource teams and talents - another showcase of AI's power to ease industry pain points.

AI's Imminent Impact

The fact that it's no longer just industry giants utilizing AI to provide customer solutions proves the technology is now fully democratized. It's no longer a tech exclusive to companies with big budgets, nor is it employed for more advanced processes. It's now become an everyday part of most people's lives, albeit in many cases unknowingly. These companies' efforts just show that AI is bound to create a lasting impact in transforming industries. It's only a matter of time before other legacy industries feel the need to use it, too.

The author is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in the story, in any capacity.

Eddie Ybanez

Co-founder, Payruler

Eddie Ybanez, co-founder of Payruler, an HRMS startup.

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