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EBL Launches AI-enabled Chatbot, Mobile’s Killer App, Banking’s New Reality and EBL’s Real Gains

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Jan 2, 2018

First of, from my 12 Tech Trends That Will Shape Bangladesh In 2018:

Chatbot, messaging and customer experience

Social media has effectively disrupted shopping and eCommerce in Dhaka giving way to a lot of small entrepreneurs to start and build businesses. Messaging has been seeing a huge growth and we suspect messaging coupled with chatbot will influence how companies offer customer services in Dhaka.

You may check rest of the trends here.

Now on to the update.

EBL, one of the leading private banks in the country, has introduced an AI-enabled chatbot on December 31, 2017 - indeed, a brilliant way to call it a year. Something like ending with a bang.

However, I was not surprised at all that the company launched a chatbot. Because chatbot is the new normal. It is more so for us given that we are a mobile-first nation and all of our major technological developments have been heavily reliant on mobile technology. See my piece on the state of consumer technology in Bangladesh here for more on this.

From mobile is eating Bangladesh:

“Over the past years, Bangladesh has experienced unprecedented growth in mobile phone penetration. According to BTRC, the country has over 117 million mobile phone subscribers and growing. Bangladesh is a true mobile-first nation, according to data from StatCounter GlobalStats, in February 2017, more than 73% of internet users came through mobile whereas the number was only 25% for desktop. Although feature-phone dominates the overall usage, the country has also been seeing an extraordinary smartphone growth, thanks to cheap Chinese handset.

This has implications not only for tech but also for many other industries. People spend an unusually high amount of time with their handheld devices. Moreover, mobile allows users to do things on the go. As a result, mobile is changing how we communicate, consume, shop and transact. In the coming years, it will change many other aspects of our daily life.

Understanding mobile and its implications on our life and living is one of our obsessions at FS. Over the past years, we have closely followed the growth of MFS, smartphone, mobile internet, digital health services, various on-demand services and more.”

The essential connection between mobile and chatbot is messaging. Messaging is the killer app of mobile. That’s why Facebook bought WhatsApp for billions of dollars and investors go crazy when it comes to mobile-first anything.

Mobile is the ultimate platform and messaging is the heart of that platform. From What’s Next For Magnito Digital: An Interview With Riyad Shahir Ahmed Husain:

“We have identified that messaging is growing very fast across the world. It is becoming the de facto mode of communication in offices and in many other places.

People now communicate in smaller groups in different platforms such as WhatsApp groups, Viber groups, Facebook Messenger groups etc.

What strategies should brands apply here? How can brands leverage these chat apps to their advantage? We have realized that this is going to be the next big thing and that brands will have to communicate on a constant basis within these communities. Customer service and brand communications will move to chat apps. How do we scale customer service in chat apps? By utilizing artificial intelligence.”

This is why it is so fascinating to see a local private bank to take advantage of a tech trend that is likely to change how brand and consumer interact with each other.

Mobile is the next step in the consumer-brand interaction and chatbot, powered by AI is the way to go.

Rising Competition in Banking and EBL’s Strategic Gains

Banking has known for being a slow industry. There are valid reasons to that 1) it is a highly regulated industry that does not allow you to do much 2) Up until now competition was relatively tame in the banking industry, strict regulatory environment helped this to happen, 3) fintech was not a real thing until last year, at least for the bankers.

Competition and uncertainty are two forces that drive innovation. Finally, these forces have come to work for the banking industry.

Fintech companies - particularly bKash, once dismissed for being frivolous, and a few others - are slowly eating into bank’s turf. This is one of the reasons why we are seeing a lot of new activities in the banking industry around technology in the recent times.

EBL’s move to launch EBL Dia can be analyzed through the same frame. However, there are more to it.

In a tight market where competition is fierce retaining customers is more important than acquiring new ones. This is particularly why EBL DIA is so important for EBL’s future and where this new customer service initiative will serve the bank well.

Competition has grown in banking over the past few years, it will be more so in the coming days meaning acquiring new customers will be increasingly challenging. But retaining new ones is comparatively easier. You just need to make them happy. This is where I think EBL’s DIA will help the bank. It will help EBL wooing its existing customers while attracting new ones, the sigh of which we witnessed on social media yesterday where customers started to share the screenshot of their conversations with DIA. This is where EBL gains.

Cover photo: EBL


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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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