media update’s Nikita Geldenhuys checked in with Pillay to hear how he thinks social media chatbots can both assist consumers and help people or businesses sell their products.

Please briefly describe Keira in terms of functionality, where the bot gathers information from, and whom the product is targeted at.

Keira aims to help prospective tenants and buyers find their dream homes. Through the use of AI and machine learning, she understands prospective tenants and buyers better, so there’s no need for them to spend hours searching for properties on the Internet. She will automatically notify you of a property that best matches your criteria. 

Prospective tenants and buyers can chat to Keira on Facebook Messenger or Skype as simply as they do with one of their friends. Keira is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and exists on platforms that users already have.

There is no need to register, reset your password, or login because you are already on Facebook Messenger or Skype. You can interact with her right away.

Keira has a content management system, which integrates into multiple systems, enabling landlords to perform tasks such as credit checks and screenings. Through this CMS, anyone may put up their home for sale or rental by simply uploading a few pictures and filling out a few fields, telling us about the property.

Once you upload your home for sale or rental, the bot verifies it. Once it is approved, Keira will automatically notify tenants and buyers that match your listing and will immediately publish your listing on social media platforms.

Please elaborate on the technology that powers Keira.

Keira uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), which are both subfields of AI. Keira deploys certain machine learning algorithms, which allow her to become smarter over time. She can learn from each user – for example, the type of properties the user likes or dislikes – and make suggestions on new developments they may be interested in.

NLP is the ability of the chatbot to understand human language, whether it be text or speech. Currently, Keira understands English, but we are working on developing our own NLP to process vernacular in South Africa.

Some South African chatbots promote brands and products. Keira seems different. How important is it that South African developers and companies create chatbots that support and assist people?

It is important for companies to understand where their customers are. There are over 13 million people on Facebook in South Africa, over seven million on Twitter, and most companies use Skype for Business to communicate internally.

Chatbots could help people in a vast array of industries and we think it is quite important for companies to improve their customer service and provide a unique experience for their customers.

For example, you have a dispute with your service provider and have been transferred from call to call but no one understands your problem. This could easily be solved by sending a chatbot a simple text explaining your problem. The chatbot could analyse your situation and, if it can’t rectify the problem itself, it will escalate it to one of its human friends.

What would have taken hours to fix, could now be solved in minutes.

Is there an opportunity to monetise bots like Keira? How would you suggest developers do that?

If they build a great product that solves a specific problem, people will be willing to pay for that. If you are building a chatbot for a specific industry, it’s important to understand your commercial model first. Thereafter, you can integrate payments within your chatbot for certain services.

Please tell us more about BotsZA. When was the company founded and what is your vision?

BotsZA is a chatbot development agency based in Johannesburg. The company was co-founded by myself and Harmony Mothibe in 2016. We are both absolutely intrigued and excited about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet of Things.

We pride ourselves in delivering quality and bespoke chatbot solutions to help clients reduce costs and save time through automation. The company’s vision is to be the leading global bots products and services provider, with a strong position in key industry verticals.

We also aim to solve problems within Africa by finding ways to uplift communities. We believe that Africa’s problems can only be solved by people within Africa.

Are there any new developments in chatbot technology that you are excited to see more of in South Africa?

Oh yes. We have seen great success with airlines, banks, hotels, government institutions, etc. abroad implementing this technology to improve their customer experience. We would like to see more of this in South Africa.

We would also like to see more chatbots that make people’s lives easier and help solve problems in Africa that could, ultimately, not be solved without the use of AI and chatbot technology.

Find out more about Keira on

Read how local brands are using chatbots to connect consumers to their products in our article, Three proudly South African chatbots on social media.