This column is by Prashant Pitti, Co-Founder, NearGroup & Easemytrip
I am one of the founders of a Delhi-based startup called NearGroup. In July this year, we developed a Facebook messenger bot that allows users to chat anonymously. The chatbot connected users with other users without disclosing either of their identities.
Often people want to talk out, seek counselling, advise etc. without being judged. There are several online portals which are coming up around the same lines. We used the chatbot technology in our own way, and built NearGroup bot, so that one can chat anonymously with random folks or their friends or nearby users
Additionally, it also allows users to disclose their Facebook identities & become friends.
It turned out that there were a lot of takers for this project of ours. We had 28434 users at the end of the first 2 of months, which grew up to 41442 users at the end of the quarter. People mostly seeked advice related to relations or finances.
We had launched with a few basic features, including:-
– Click CHAT and get connected with another user to chat instantly
– You would get a random topic to debate upon in the chat-session
– You can type END to discontinue that chat-session anytime
– You can type SHARE to disclose your identity (and become FB friends)
– Click CHAT again to get connected with another user
– Create your own Topic (other user can anonymously chat with you on )
– Search other LIVE topics (chat with anonymous person on that topic)
– enter your city, locality, pin-code, college-name, company-name, etc
– chat with people who also belong to same location or institution anonymously
The bot was seeing over 2800 daily active users, we were exhilarated. The demand was completely organic. We decided to ride on this opportunity, and expand the offerings of our chat bot.
In its current form, the chatbot has become more useful. Besides the basic features, we expanded the bot’s capabilities to connect like-minded users based on the pages they have liked. As an ice-breaker, our system throws a question to both users, so that can chat about it to begin with. Users can anytime discontinue chat-conversation to begin a new one.
Since we would like to take this further ahead within our business, we have enabled hyperlocal offers & services discovery within the bot. Users can create or view offers (pertaining to food & classes) in their pin-code.
The response from the users encourages us to keep working on it.
A week ago, Facebook started highlighting us in top 10 bot suggestions across the globe. Due to which our usage has gone up exponentially. Only in last 7 days, we have received 1 million chat requests from across the globe.
Now our bot is equally used between Indians, Filipinos, Iraqis & Malaysian. If you do try it out, do share your experience in the comments below.