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WATI.io: Helping small businesses innovate and reach customers on chat with Google Kubernetes Engine

About WATI.io

WATI.io is a Hong Kong-based startup that builds a low-code customer-engagement SaaS platform built on WhatsApp Business API, enabling small businesses to interact and transact with customers through WhatsApp.

Industries: Technology
Location: Hong Kong

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With Google Cloud, WATI.io helps small-to-medium businesses to have personalized conversations with easy-to-use customer-engagement software on a scalable, highly available, cost-effective infrastructure.

Google Cloud results

  • Enables the business to add new clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rather than in batches every three days
  • Ensures the business can complete monthly updates and hotfixes in minutes rather than days, ensuring clients gain rapid access to changes critical to their businesses
  • Positions WATI.io to help small to medium businesses remain accessible, personalized, and able to engage in real time

Reduces time to deploy to clients from three days to 10 minutes

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Hong Kong, Clare.AI and WATI.io help businesses to have personalized conversations with customers at scale. “We started by providing an AI-powered digital assistant platform that enables enterprise customers to access account-related information and in 2020, we launched a new product, WATI.io, to target small-to-medium businesses with a WhatsApp API-integrated customer engagement software as a service (SaaS),” says Bianca Ho, co-founder and COO of Clare.AI and WATI.io.

“We live in the ‘now’ economy where it is very easy to get things—you can click and have food delivered to you, get a taxi, or watch whatever you like,” adds Bianca. This expectation of fast, seamless, and personalized experiences means merchants, shops, and service providers need to be always accessible and responsive—or lose business to more dynamic competitors. In this environment, messaging is more immediate than emails or phone calls. Behaviors such as social sharing, blogging, and notifications are joining real-time conversations as key use cases on messaging applications.

Meeting customers through messaging

The founders’ vision for WATI.io is to help businesses achieve more success with less effort. With WATI’s SaaS platform, businesses can effortlessly engage with customers at scale on WhatsApp, so they can remain accessible, personalized, and able to engage in real time. They can do this through programmatic, personalized notifications sent through the WATI API. With the seamless team inbox offering, the WATI.io platform enables small-to-medium businesses to support customers with smart routing, canned responses, data tagging, and analytics, with many interactions automated through low-code workflow builders and chatbots.

“Through automating millions of messages for large enterprises, we gained an understanding of their pain points and were able to build simpler, easier-to-use version of our product for small-to-medium businesses,” says Bianca, a former banker whose entrepreneurship and leadership credentials include being the first youth representative in the United Nations IGF’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group. Bianca’s fellow co-founder is Ken Yeung, a former lead application developer for a cloud-based trading platform that offers clients access to 37 stock exchanges.

“With Google Kubernetes Engine, we have been able to automate processes to provision new clients so we can do so seven days a week, 24 hours a day, saving ourselves and our clients a considerable amount of time.”

Ken Yeung, co-founder & CEO, Clare.AI and WATI.io

Scalability requirement increased

WATI.io started operations with its launch products in 2020 on a traditional multinational cloud, but as the business very quickly acquired new clients, its need to scale faster and more cost-effectively increased. “Creating a new virtual machine on our previous cloud provider took a day or two at a time, and this limited our speed to bring on new clients or respond to changing circumstances in a rapid, responsive way,” says Ken. “We started looking at our options—in particular, Kubernetes for automating application deployment and scaling.

“Because Google Cloud had developed and invested heavily in Kubernetes, we began exploring a move to the service once we reached 100 clients,” he adds.

WATI.io started the transition to Google Cloud and in Q3 2021 was running an environment that incorporated Google Kubernetes Engine to provide managed, production-ready application containerization, virtual machine instances through Compute Engine and Cloud Load Balancing to distribute workloads across compute resources. A Firestore database keeps data synchronized for the WATI.io application.

“We continuously talk to the Google Cloud team on the innovation side—for example, exploring capabilities such as the new Autopilot mode of operation in Google Kubernetes Engine to reduce our cluster operating costs and improve our workload availability—and always see new technologies coming in that we can apply to our business.”

Ken Yeung, co-founder & CEO, Clare.AI and WATI.io

Time to deploy reduced considerably

WATI.io began to onboard clients to the new architecture in early 2021. With Google Kubernetes Engine, the business has reduced the time to deploy to clients from two to three days, undertaken in batches, to 10–15 minutes. “With Google Kubernetes Engine, we have been able to automate processes to provision new clients so we can do so seven days a week, 24 hours a day, saving ourselves and our clients a considerable amount of time,” says Ken.

Furthermore, Google Kubernetes Engine enables WATI.io to complete hotfixes and monthly updates within minutes rather than days, ensuring the business meets client expectations for the rapid deployment of new features.

“Google Cloud gives us the capability to continue to grow and execute our vision. We are deeply excited about the opportunity to continue to help small-to-medium businesses innovate and succeed without having to stretch themselves financially and resource-wise.”

Ken Yeung, co-founder & CEO, Clare.AI and WATI.io

Talking to Google Cloud about innovation

Building on these efficiencies, the Google Cloud account team has helped WATI.io further reduce its costs and optimize its infrastructure, and Ken views this as an ongoing process with plans underway to evaluate the benefits and opportunities of Google Cloud serverless solutions. “We continuously talk to the Google Cloud team on the innovation side—for example, exploring capabilities such as the new Autopilot mode of operation in Google Kubernetes Engine to reduce our cluster operating costs and improve our workload availability—and always see new technologies coming in that we can apply to our business.”

With clients based in 54 countries, WATI.io is exploring a potential multi-region Google Cloud deployment to reduce latency and improve the resiliency of the platform. The business also plans to leverage the cloud platform’s support for DevOps practices that can shorten development life cycles and enable continuous deployment presenting opportunities to gain yet more efficiencies from its infrastructure.

“Google Cloud gives us the capability to continue to grow and execute our vision,” concludes Ken. “We are deeply excited about the opportunity to continue to help small-to-medium businesses innovate and succeed without having to stretch themselves financially and resource-wise.”

Illustration with mobile phone display on left and a graph on right with two business people shaking hands in the foreground

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About WATI.io

WATI.io is a Hong Kong-based startup that builds a low-code customer-engagement SaaS platform built on WhatsApp Business API, enabling small businesses to interact and transact with customers through WhatsApp.

Industries: Technology
Location: Hong Kong