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City Chatbot

Chatbots are usually implemented in two ways:

  • Click Based Approach

In this approach, people do not have freedom to type in their questions. The user inputs are restricted to the options provided to them as clickable buttons. These buttons, on click offer further options. The advantage of this approach is that, it is less error prone with the chatbot controlling the flow. The disadvantage of this approach is that it may take multiple clicks/ steps to fetch answers.

Several banking websites have such chatbots.

 

  •  Free Format Approach

In this approach, the user is free to type and ask any question. The advantage of this approach is that the user gets a much quicker response. The disadvantage is the umpteen number of possibilities that need to be supported while implementing the chatbot.

Siri, Google Assistant are examples of such chatbots.

The ideal way to implement such chatbots is via Machine learning. And while that is the preferred approach, it is also highly resource(CPU/ Memory/ HD) intensive. For a solution with a limited data subset, there is no need to support every possibility under the sun. It is not only expensive to build such models, but at times irrelevant as well. For instance, the City Chatbot doesn’t need to answer random queries like ‘Explain Big Bang theory’ nor ‘Who will win the World Cup’.

The Chatbot we are building from scratch, uses a hybrid approach between both the models above, utilizing our City database schema as guidance.

Before we roll out the release, here is a sneak peak into ‘Click based approach’ of our City Chatbot:

We hope to release our chatbot within a month after testing and including the ‘Free Format Approach’ as well.

And we will use the analytics based on user interaction to continue feeding the chatbot with further improvements.

 

 

Adding Value

innovate

Recently I visited NSRCEL in IIMB and I got a chance to participate in one of the EPGP classes by Prof Kumar. During the bootcamp, he had conducted an excellent class for us. We were about 6 entrepreneurs who had volunteered to be a part of the Lean Canvas exercise for the class. Luckily, I got an enthusiastic bunch of students to work with. After asking me the right questions, they came up with a Lean Canvas for my venture that pretty much reflected my thoughts and some more. It was actually quite wonderful to see how much they understood about my venture and the challenges I was facing, implicitly. There were parallels drawn between my website and JustDial/ Sulekha/ Craigslist. Yes, there are certain things that are similar. Under some sections, we cover the information well, but in some other areas, the competition does a great job.

The last time I met my mentor Prof Handa, he asked me what impact my website was making. The analytics weren’t very flattering. He then went over each section and asked me what value was I bringing in. I have met other mentors who will half halfheartedly listen to what you have to say and throw some unrelated solutions your way. But the best mentors like Prof Handa will simply ask you questions that will make you think and find answers on your own. Now I regularly ask myself – will I use this, how is this different and how does this add value.

Currently, the impact of belgauminfo.com has been very small, nevertheless it is quite satisfying to know about a few people who found the website beneficial.

  • One person could use our website from USA and reach out to a local bank in a timely manner to get her credit card blocked on fraud detection.
  • A handful of people were able to pay their property taxes early via our links and get the early bird discount.
  • The Events calendar got a great response and helps both organizers reach wider audience, as well as helps many people learn about daily events in the city.

The journey so far, from a simple idea to a full fledged website has been very rewarding. And while I make plans for Phase 2 of my project, there is one question that I will constantly ask myself at every step – how am I innovating and creating value.

City Events Calendar

One of the inspirations behind coming up with a city web portal was visiting an event in the city with poor footfall. So, covering city events on the city portal was a no brainer. Most people aren’t aware about what is happening in the city. Not everybody reads the newspaper daily, there are visitors from out of town, all newspapers may not even cover every event in the city. There are a few websites purely dedicated for events, but most often they focus only on tier-1 cities. There are Facebook events and whatsapp groups, but again that is limited to a certain minuscule set of people in the group.  To overcome all these limitations, we set aside one page for events.

Now, the next challenge was that the events on most websites aren’t displayed in a user friendly manner. Most events are displayed with date and venue in big paragraphs. Such bulky content isn’t convenient to read or remember. I asked myself, “Would it be more convenient to see events marked on a calendar?” Afterall, calendars help us plan better and show events summary at one glance.

So here is how we cover City Events.

The events page calendar as seen on a big screen – desktop/ laptop

events1

The events page calendar as seen on a mobile.

events2.png

Clicking on the date on the city events calendar, displays the event posters for that day on a scrolling page – one after another, as shown below:

events3

The response to the City Events Calendar has been great so far, with a few event organizers submitting their city events for inclusion and other users finding it very easy to navigate.

Check out the city events calendar here:

https://belgauminfo.com/events

If you have any suggestions/ ideas for us or would like to submit your city event for inclusion on the city calendar, please reach out to us at dpatil@moraisolutions.com.

Belgaum City Info Website Release

Happy to announce the Phase 1 release of the website for Belgaum city information. It is a one stop solution for all information about the city. In other words, a Single Pane of Glass into the city. Hope this will be useful for both visitors as well as residents of the city.

Here is a video that describes the navigation and various options available on the website:

To experience the website live, click here: https://belgauminfo.com

Please take a look and let us know your feedback. Your suggestions will help us improve.

 

Bringing Social Transformation via Education

Education is a necessity for making social transformation. According to constitution of India, ‘Right to Education’ is a fundamental right. In India, 65% of students go to Government Schools. I too studied at one such school – Kendriya Vidyalaya (Central School). My fee was negligible, but the quality of education and the dedication of my teachers was paramount. It helped mould young minds like mine well.

According to the survey report by the Department of Education, the number of school dropouts has increased by five folds in Government schools in Karnataka this year. Some of the reasons attributed for dropping out of school were – Migration, Disinterest in studies, Domestic work, Illness, Distance to school, Neglect towards girl child’s education etc

While it was disheartening to see the survey results, efforts taken by a few warriors to fight this problem offer a glimmer of hope. An article in Edex magazine highlighted how some people are imparting the value of education and motivating more kids to enrol in schools.

The entire article is here: https://www.edexlive.com/beinspired/2019/jan/30/meet-the-people-who-are-stopping-karnatakas-schools-from-shutting-down-5179.html

One of the stories that caught my attention was that of Venkatesh who brought many child labourers working in sericulture industry, back to schools.

Here, in his own words:

“Last year a sericulture factory near Hoskote had child labourers working in it. When we spoke to the owner, he was not ready to let them go as the parents were given money and had signed a two-year agreement. But we convinced him and told him that we will repay him. Later, the children were enrolled in school and we felicitated the owner for letting the children go to school. He did not even take the amount from us. He realised that their future is very important”

Child Education

This is inspiring at many levels.The root cause of the problem was identified and dealt with head on. Offering to pay for the children’s two year agreement showed the dedication and commitment towards the cause. Felicitating the owner for letting the kids study instead of reprimanding him for hiring them earlier, brought about a big transformation in his outlook.

Sometimes ordinary people doing extraordinary things, teach you more about patience, commitment, dedication, negotiation and transformation.