We first got wind of Panya bot, by then at the developmental stage back in May on Telegram. The bot is developed by YoPanya Technology Services, a Ugandan startup located at Venture Labs East Africa Building in Bugolobi. Panya (a Luganda word meaning ‘shortcut’) holds the distinction of being one of, if not the first functional Ugandan bot on Telegram. The bot now also calls Facebook Messenger home, taking advantage of a wider user base on the social site.
On Telegram, Panya re-purposes the iconic Apple slogan in a witty marketing ploy. Just like in the case of the Apple Store, those in need of certain services in and around Kampala and do not where to start should know there’s a Panya for that! Panya’s list of services comprise ride hailing (Uber, Safeboda, taxi) and car hire, parcel and groceries delivery, bag and shoes shopping, professional services, eat out, entertainment, events and more.
True to it’s name, Panya works as a shortcut for those unwilling to leave the comfort of their homes or offices or the clueless who do not know how their way around Kampala. The bot works very much like USSD codes. Nagivation is by inputting numbers which correspond to the services the bot provides. Their home website classifies these as Panya Master, Panya Deals, Panya Fun and Panya Fix
Right in the app, we were able to get recommendations for a vetted Fumigator with 28 years of experience, along with his contacts and a picture of the good man. We successfully linked an Uber account with Panya and afterwards could request for an Uber right in the app, hustle free. With a few taps, we knew which movies were screening at the cinema and at how much. We also checked out which places to take the kids, the rates, and contacts. Granted the bot’s information isn’t comprehensive, but functions as it should. Panya offers a seamless service on Telegram Messenger as it does on Facebook.
Dumbing down the Internet
What Panya does is that it dumbs down the torrent that is the internet and lets only that which is vital trickle out for those who cannot ably navigate the their browsers. The internet returns so many options and you cannot be sure which one to take. Sometimes, few options is what some people need. For the start anyway. Panya’s usefulness cannot be overstated. Recently, a German friend asked me if I knew of any affordable swimming pools she could go to and I had no clue. Googling didn’t help me either. I found what I wanted on Panya, but unfortunately, this was months later.
Panya would do well to provide more options to give the bot more diversity. For instance, there is only Uber and Safeboda among the ride hailing services, yet in truth there are more than that. When we looked up bus schedules, we only came across Posta Uganda, and yet there are dozens of bus companies. The delivery option is really good, but we would have liked to know which company is doing the deliveries. Like in the case of the Fumigator, knowing whom you’re dealing with inspires trust in a service. However, kudos on a useful quality homegrown product.