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Chinese 'bot' developer startup offers digital staffing options

Dragonfly Intelligence is growing by automating back-office tasks

Dragonfly Intelligence helps clients automate jobs, creating cost savings quickly. (Screenshot of Dragonfly Intelligence website)

BEIJING -- Chinese robotic automation startup Dragonfly Intelligence is growing steadily by providing "digital workforces" for a broad array of public- and private-sector organizations.

The company develops "robotic process automation," or RPA, systems that automate mundane back-office task like accounting and document processing and production, offering these systems along with consulting services. Its customers range from government bodies such as prosecutors and tax offices to private businesses -- money lenders, telecom carriers, broadcasters and others.

Dragonfly Intelligence's highly customized services help clients automate jobs previously done by humans to deliver quick cost savings. They are increasingly popular with a range of organizations, mainly administrative agencies.

The company was founded in 2015 by a group of engineers who had come from IBM, Chinese IT powerhouse Baidu and other major tech companies. It has more than 40 software copyrights and patents in the fields of RPA and artificial intelligence. The RPA programs, often called bots, fit into the broad definition of AI because they use elements of AI technology or cognitive capabilities.

Many RPA vendors provide only modules, leaving it up to users to install the software. But Dragonfly Intelligence offers customized RPA systems that can serve as "digital workers" immediately.

The company begins by working with customers to assess their work processes to provide RPA solutions that allow some or all of the processes to be automated. This "software as a service," or SaaS, is offered through private or public cloud platforms.

Dragonfly Intelligence can also provide application programming interfaces -- computing interfaces that define interactions between multiple systems and software -- allowing its products to operate seamlessly with customers' existing systems.

The bots are centrally operated at a control center on the cloud and form a cloud center of excellence for the RPA system in question.

CEO Li Kun views his company's "digital employees" as products at the top of a product pyramid built on the company's AI and RPA engines.

Because its RPA robots are tailored to the specific needs of customers, they can reduce costs and boost efficiency as soon as they are introduced. In one case, the company's RPA system led to a return on investment of over 300%.

Dragonfly Intelligence has already developed more than 70 RPA robots that perform a wide range of tasks: information disclosure at prosecutors' offices, conformation of records, automatic document production, drafting financial statements for banks, submitting notifications to regulators, opening bank accounts for businesses, producing tax payment reminders and tax collection reports for tax offices.

Because the company emphasizes complete solutions, it puts a high priority on ensuring that its systems are user-friendly and can be put in place quickly. It usually takes Dragonfly Intelligence only a week or two to develop and implement systems once it understands the customer's needs.

In addition to cloud-based systems, the company also offers systems designed to run on PCs.

The bots can work even while the system is being updated, allowing users to update their RPA systems at any time in response to changing tasks.

Dragonfly Intelligence's revenue comes from annual subscription fees for its SaaS systems and service charges based on the amount of tasks performed. The company is also developing solutions for bookkeeping and human-resource management.

Advances in AI technology in recent years have made it possible for RPA robots to recognize and handle paper documents, conduct sales checks and create complicated charts. This has rapidly expanded the market for RPA systems. Market research specialist TransparencyMarket Research predicts the market will grow by an average 61.3% annually over the next several years. The Asia-Pacific market is particularly promising, with a forecast growth rate of 181% for 2021, according to the company. The global RPA market will balloon to $5 billion by 2024, it says.

36Kr, a Chinese tech news portal founded in Beijing in 2010, has more than 150 million readers worldwide. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr on May 22, 2019.

For the Japanese version of this story, click here.

For the Chinese version, click here.

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