Canadian high commission reaches out to Indian diaspora through multilingual WhatsApp chatbot

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on April 07, 2020 Published on April 07, 2020

Representative Image   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Canadian High Commission has decided to allay the fears of Indians residing in Canada by launching a bot that will be a one-stop information source around COVID-19 and preparedness, as per the official release.

This comes when the High Commission of Canada in India (HCI) and Consulates in Toronto and Vancouver have been flooded with questions around the COVID-19 pandemic by persons of Indian origin (PIOs).

With over 1.6 million PIOs and approximately 200,000 students from India enrolled in various Canadian colleges and universities, it has been a challenging situation for the HCI and Consulates.

After much deliberation and the fact that the number of frantic calls was only increasing by the day, the HCI decided to get in touch with, India's conversational platform and Portea Medical, a home healthcare company to develop an automated multilingual chatbot called CANbot. Accessible from HCI’s website,the bot will be a one-stop source of information for Indian nationals, students and PIOs in Canada.


CANBot will assist them with answers to questions around COVID-19, public safety measures taken in India and Canada and restrictions on international travel.

The information will be provided via WhatsApp in English, Hindi, and Punjabi. The chat can also be transferred to respective consulates for better redressal of queries if required.

Speaking on the launch, the High Commissioner of India to Canada, Ajay Bisaria, said that the High Commission wanted to create a service that can assist people in this emergency. “We empathize with people’s concerns in these troubled times and the need to receive immediate and accurate information wherever they are”, the High Commissioner added.

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical, said in the official release: “Timely dissemination of verified information, education and avoiding fake news are a must during a public health emergency. We are happy to have associated with the High Commission of India in Canada and Verloop at this crucial hour.”

How it works

The chatbot will greet people with a welcome message and ask them to choose from available options depending on the information they need. Data, travel advisory, and related information available on the CANbot have been sourced from the HCI. Information about COVID-19 has been sourced from WHO, CDC and John Hopkins and further verified by experts at Portea Medical. This ensures that only authentic, helpful and easy-to-understand information is shared with the users. Verloop has developed the technical aspects of the bot.

Commenting on the bot, Gaurav Singh, Founder, Verloop, stated in the official release: “The HCI was inundated with calls from PIOs and students for help and clarity. The CANBot will be an apt solution to this and will help in managing the sudden spike in conversations around travel and visa restrictions etc. It is a true example of how technology can be used to manage so many queries comprehensively.”

Published on April 07, 2020

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.