Kester Poh has always wanted to build a product which would make a significant impact on people’s lives. Mr Poh has set up AiChat to help brands manage chatbots for their sales and marketing.
What’s your story?
I’m the co-founder, CEO at AiChat, a conversational Artificial Intelligence (A.I) startup, providing a chatbot platform (as-a-service) for brands to easily manage chatbots for customer service, sales and marketing. The company is based in Singapore and Indonesia, serving clients such as Philips Lighting, Omron Healthcare, Pernod Richad, Shimano, Cheetah Mobile, Marina Bay Sands, Jimoto Ya restaurant and many other SMEs across Asia. Prior to embarking on my entrepreneur journey, I was working in one of the world’s largest advertising networks, WPP group, as a project manager leading multiple award-winning digital campaigns for the Fortune 500 companies. I was 6 years in the digital industry before I decided to move on to do something on my own as I’ve always wanted to build a product that could make an impact on people’s life. After I left my full-time job, I did some freelance digital consultancy work and started experimenting with “Conversational Commerce.” The idea was inspired by China’s WeChat, and I was curious about how people in China are leveraging this amazing app to buy and sell things simply via text messaging. I wanted to test out the demand outside China to see if people are willing to make a transaction via messaging app. This led me to my first startup idea, known as AskVoila, a digital concierge service which allows people to text for anything they need via WhatsApp. The services range from hotel bookings and restaurant reservations, to buying gadgets and groceries shopping. The traction was good but the only challenge was that the solution could not scale with the increasing volume of requests. My co-founder and I had to look for a solution to automate the service. We went on to research conversational AI so that we could automate some of our replies. Eventually, we built a simple bot to test out selling watches and to our surprise, during the 2 months of concept validation, we managed to receive quite a decent amount of sales commissions from the bot automatically. The potential of chatbots immediately dawned upon us, and we were lucky to find an angel investor who funded our idea to build a full-fledged chatbot platform to manage this service. Just before we launched the product, we were already receiving enquiries from customers who requested to use our platform (now known as AiChat) for their business and asked us to build bots for them.
What excites you most about your industry?
I believe AI will make people’s lives easier and ultimately contribute to the success of their business.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a Chinese Peranakan borned and raised in Singapore, with businesses operating in Singapore and Indonesia. My clients come from across the region including Singapore, Taiwan, India and Indonesia.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, it is the easiest place to start a business.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The most important thing you should have is patience. This is a quote from Jack Ma
Who inspires you?
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I learnt that business is not just about selling – it is about having a good product, a good team and a good network. If you have all these in place, money will find you.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have started my entrepreneur journey earlier
How do you unwind?
Spending time with my family.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand – it has nice beaches and good food.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Shameless plug for your business:
Asia’s leading conversational A.I company.
How can people connect with you?
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.