Ten years after changing the way people communicate in Korea, Kakao launched a messenger service especially for the workplace.
After the original Kakao messenger service replaced mobile text messages as the way people kept in touch, many offices adopted it as a communication tool — one that office workers found hard to avoid.
“Katalk” culture in the office soon got mixed up with private messages on the app. A very common complaint was that Kakao kept people chained to their bosses 24/7.
The new messenger service, named Kakao Work, allows employees to block messages after work. A company can have its own employee data base allowing its employees to message each other without exchanging phone numbers.
The service comes with workplace-oriented features, like checking which members of a group chat did not read a message, or the ability to tap a work request message to add it to a to-do list. It works both on mobile devices and desktop computers.
Employees of Kakao Enterprise, the affiliate that developed business-to-business services, have been testing the Kakao Work messenger since May. The most popular feature was a new emoji function that allows employees to press “Like” on individual messages as they would on Facebook or Instagram.
“In work-related chat rooms, there are situations that require some kind of response, but you’ve already repeated ‘yes’ too many times,” said Baek Sang-yeop, Kakao Enterprise CEO in an online press event, Wednesday. “This was, in fact, the favorite function for Kakao Enterprise employees.”
Apart from messaging, Kakao Work’s platform will offer tools for companies trying to digitize their way of work — an ongoing trend after the Covid-19 outbreak forced businesses to make employees work from home.
A time clock feature will allow workers to share when they start and finish work, as well as vacation plans. Video meetings are possible on the platform, offering simultaneous connections for up to 30 people. The plan is to gradually expand this number to 200.
That could make Kakao’s new app a competitor to other videoconferencing platforms used in Korea, like Zoom.
Collaborative tools that support telecommuters have been on the rise since the coronavirus crisis began. Kakao may not be the first to launch a service in this segment, but one thing the IT giant offers is artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The Kakao Work messenger comes with an AI voice assistant called Kasper, which can answer simple questions. The user only has to input a question in the message box starting with “/Kasper” in Korean.
At the moment, Kasper’s knowledge is limited to searching for information. The ultimate goal is to make it into an AI work assistant that can give more specific answers about one’s workplace, like automatically adjusting meeting schedules between individuals.
Kakao Work is the first product released by Kakao Enterprise and is part of the company’s drive to expand its foothold in business-to-business services. The office messenger is primarily aimed at companies that don’t have the resources to set up internal communication tools. Most large companies in Korea develop messenger tools of their own
At the moment, Kakao Work’s main functions like video conferencing are offered by the company. But it will also be a platform that other companies can develop functions for.
“As a person working in the IT business for years, I’ve seen a lot of ventures with good ideas on business-to-business services that struggle in the field because they can’t find customers,” Baek said. “I want Kakao Work to be a platform where more players can expand the service together.”
Kakao Work will offer one basic program for free and three subscription plans equipped with more advanced functions. The “premium” Kakao Work will be offered for free on a trial basis from Wednesday through Nov. 25.
BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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