I owe this one to a Facebook tip-off from one of our readers on our post revealing Uber, Grab and ComfortDelGro promo codes in the month of January.
Predictably, because of our national passion for promo codes and savings, the post did extremely well, and we were looking forward to doing a monthly edition, since it’s what many readers (and us too) were interested in.
But what if there was a simpler way to go about that?
Two National University of Singapore (NUS) undergrads decided to come up with the solution for just that.
Out Of The Slew Of Chatbots – Here’s TaxiBot
Forget the original phrase with existential roots – most of our this-or-that choices are price-driven. But more than just comparing between one option and the other, the advent of promo codes have actually made those decisions even harder!
While some are brand loyal and have the ‘die die must be Grab/Uber/cab’ mentality, for most of us, the one that gives us the lowest quotation wins.
This tends to involve the frantic switching between different apps, and Amos Goh, one-half of the TaxiBot team and 21-year-old NUS Business School undergraduate, knew the pain that comes it with very, very well.
Calling himself a “developer by heart but not by training”, Amos and his uni mate Natasha, who’s in NUS School of Computing, created the TaxiBot chatbot, so that Singaporeans could easily discover ongoing promo codes from Uber, Grab and taxi companies (mostly Comfort DelGro).
But at Vulcan Post, we’re also interested in the stories behind the products, so I caught up with Amos, and found out more about the Bot and the brains behind it.
All About The Bot
The first time we caught wind of the bot was actually near the end of January, and after taking a peek at their Facebook page in hopes to try it out, I was led to a page with just a smattering of posts.
Disappointed, but hungry to find out more, I emailed the contact listed on the ‘About’ section, I soon got a reply from Amos, and he informed me that since it had only been live for 2 days then, the link wasn’t posted as the team was still ironing out kinks.
Fast forward to today, and the Bot is already up and running, garnering over 2.5k likes (at time of writing) on their page so far.
Amos was also extremely helpful in providing the answers to my questions, and here’s what he had to say:
What inspired you to come up with the TaxiBot?
Before coming up with TaxiBot, I was pretty interested in chatbots, so I was on the lookout for problems I can solve through building chatbots. I realised how painful it was to hunt down and track promo codes and how there wasn’t really a better way to do it.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt that a chatbot could be a good fit, so I went ahead and built a scrappy TaxiBot.
What made you decide on creating a chatbot? And one using the Facebook Messenger platform too?
I chose bots because they are intuitive and can deliver value to our users in the fastest and easiest way.
For instance, they don’t have to jump through many hoops (for example – installing an app, registering for an account, learning how to use the app).
In that sense, it’s the most efficient way for our users to gain value.
Are you a one person team, or do you have others working with you too?
Originally, I was a one person team. I didn’t have a Dev background (more of a Biz guy), so I put together a scrappy version on a platform and just launched it to some users.
When the number of users spiked and the platform became unstable, I realised I needed more tech muscle in this, so I roped in my friend, Natasha (also in NUS, but from Computing) to help build up a better TaxiBot.
Were you experienced in creating bots or apps before working on this?
I’ve had some experience in startups, but never as a developer.
Natasha has some Dev experience, but this is her first time building chatbots. So, we’re actually pretty new to building chatbots and still have a lot to learn!
How was the process of bringing the idea to life like? Was it difficult?
Even though it has been a really short time, it was pretty eventful.
I didn’t expect for us to have so many users (much less in such a short time!), so when the users kept coming, it was both good and bad news. We were building something that could add value to peoples’ lives, but that meant we had to up our game and ensure TaxiBot delivers.
It was, and still is challenging because new things keep popping up and we have to learn and adapt as we go.
What were some of the difficulties you encountered? How did you overcome them?
Following the user spike during CNY, we had some bugs in our chatbot platform, so the bot was really unstable. At that time, we were both out visiting, but we had to get on our laptops to work on it.
To minimise disruption, we had to quickly improvise and create a new version on-the-spot without the integrations that were causing problems!
What are your wishes for the bot, and how are you pushing it out? And do you have any future plans?
We hope that more people will use and get value from TaxiBot!
On our end, we’ll work to ensure TaxiBot’s stability and add more functionalities in the future. Once we’ve achieved that, we’d love to see what cool stuff we can build to tackle other pain points.
I Tried It Out For Myself, And You Now Can Too
Getting it loaded up was simple, just tap on the link and it’ll automatically open as a new chat in your Facebook Messenger app (or page, if you’re on your desktop).
Usage-wise, it was intuitive and since it’s serving a simple purpose, the bot was a breeze to use and definitely beat Google-ing for the latest promotions.
One gripe though – the bot at the moment seems like a one-trick pony, so there is definitely more potential for the platform to be used for even more promotion-related features, or ones that perhaps have to do with booking of ride-hailing services.
But with the excitement and passion about the venture never fading from Amos, even after a long thread of back-and-forth emails, I believe that he and Natasha are set to go even further with their TaxiBot.
I wish them all the best!
Try out the Taxibot here.