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How an AI-powered chatbot aims to revolutionise petcare

Siddharth Darbha, Wagr's co-founder, on their newly launched chatbot Toto, which aims to make petcare guidance more accessible in India

Toto is touted to be the world's first AI-powered petcare chatbot. (Wagr)

By Aisiri Amin

LAST PUBLISHED 01.08.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

The ever-expanding world of artificial intelligence has now reached India's petcare space. Last month, Wagr, a Bengaluru-based petcare startup, launched Toto, a 24-hour AI-powered chatbot in English and Hindi that can offer immediate help to worried pet parents.

A 2022 report in The Economic Times states that Indians have 32 million pets, and the population is increasing by 12% per year. While people take the plunge into pet parenting faster than before, the pet healthcare sector is playing catch up. The idea behind Toto, therefore, is to have technology bridge the gap. 

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This is especially relevant following Wagr's findings, too, which tracked that pet parents in India conduct approximately 5 crore pet-related searches on Google every month. First-time pet owners especially are constantly looking for guidance and information to provide the best care for their furry companions.

To address this issue, Wagr’s AI chatbot Toto offers round-the-clock assistance. Built using advanced algorithms, GPT-4 and machine learning, the chatbot uses pet details and health records to provide comprehensive, real-time support.

Co-founded by Advaith Mohan and Siddharth Darbha in 2016, Wagr was started as a way to help pet parents access quality care and advice for their pets and shop for pet products. Today, two-thirds of its users in tier 1 cities, and the company hopes to reach ten lakh pet parents by the end of 2023.

The idea for their first product, a GPS and fitness tracker for pets, was sparked when Mohan's indie pup Jambi suddenly ran out of the house one day, causing panic. Mohan had previously lost a dog that had run off and never come back. The tracker was for pet parents with a similar worry. “The GPS and fitness tracker was the first of its kind in India," Mohan says.

For them, their latest, Toto, isn't just a chatbot. It's a tool with personalised advice and a gateway to vet assistance and pet supplies. In an interview with Lounge, Darba spoke more about the idea behind Toto and how it aims to revolutionise the petcare sector.

Also read: Pet parents are seeking new-age solutions to age-old problems

Siddharth Darba and Advaith Mohan, co-founders of Toto with Jambi. (Wagr)

What is the idea behind launching Toto?

When covid-19 hit, we looked at the petcare space from a fresh perspective. Until then we were focusing on hardware such as the GPS tracker but we shifted focus towards the gaps in the space. A lot of people adopted pets during the lockdown and many new pet parents emerged. We realised that what pet parents were looking for was constant guidance and hand-holding through the process. They had many questions about the various aspects from food, and grooming, to products. We launched Toto as a way to cater to them.

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We were always very data-oriented, which is why we have our website address is wagr.ai. When building the Wagr app, where people can find Toto, we knew we wanted to bring in as much data as possible. Of course, we were not as actively thinking of building it this quickly. This is heavily inspired by GPT and all the other tools that have come forth, and it has made things much easier.

How does Toto work? What is the information that Toto provides users based on?

Toto is built on top of GPT-4, an advanced AI language model that is trained on almost all the petcare guides available online. We also personalise the responses with the user’s pet's details and suggest relevant products and content. We are planning to infuse the latest global veterinary research soon, utilising vector-based embeddings. At the moment though, we make it clear to the user that Toto should not be used for medical questions, but for more general petcare advice.

On the app, you create your pet's profile and add some details. The more details you add about the pet, the better. Then you can start a conversation with Toto and ask about your queries. If you want specific information related to your pet, then it will customise the answer more. If the questions get too medical, Toto will give whatever information is okay to give but it will ask the pet parent to consult with a veterinarian instead.

A conversation with Toto about supplements. (Wagr)

In your press release, you mentioned that Toto could revolutionise the petcare industry. Can you elaborate?

Being a pet parent can be chaotic and in a sense, it is common to draw parallels to baby care. Although to a large degree, that is true, there are additional problems as well. In the case of pets, you can rarely walk up to your neighbour to clarify a doubt or ask for advice. You will have to find the same breed and in some cases, you have to find the same age as well. So how do pet parents resolve this for themselves? Who do they trust? In such scenarios, we saw that it comes down to doctors and content and community essentially. That’s where Toto can make a big difference.

Since it’s available 24/7 and it’s personalised. Pet parents have a ton of questions and we wanted to build something that essentially presents a companion and it’s like having an expert at hand. It also increases accessibility to quality pet healthcare.

What is in store for Toto in the future?

We want to make Toto a guide to pet parents in all aspects. Right now, it's not as connected to the other parts, such as medical data, health records, and pet products. We are working to enable Toto to help pet parents with everything from buying specific products to finding approved products within their budget. and more.

Also read: How to grow pet-safe gardens