Online translation services like Google Translate are limited and don't always do the job, especially when a traveller is in a crisis or needs help quickly. That's partly why whym's translation service appealed to so many of the UK-based business travel professionals at this year's Advantage Conference; they voted the app in first place with an email bot from Amadeus after some quick-fire pitches.
BTiQ caught up with managing director Marcus Strallen to find out more.
When were you launched?
The idea for whym was first mooted in 2014. We tested the concept with a number of organisations in the travel industry and decided in early 2015 to build a prototype product. We showed that at the World Travel Market in November 2015 and got enough positive feedback to decide to commit to building a robust service.
whym was launched as a fully tested app on iOS in January 2017 and Android in April 2017.
How many people are working for the company?
Currently there are four full-time staff and a further five who are part-time associates.
Sum up what your company/product does in one sentence
whym enables a traveller anywhere in the world to be connected via an app on their smartphone to a live, professional interpreter within about 40 seconds.
What makes whym unique?
A combination of a simple app, a very clever telephone integration with our back-end platform and access to 2,500 self-employed professional interpreters around the world.
What problem does whym solve?
Imagine you are in China and become ill enough to need to go to hospital. Nobody there speaks English and you do not speak Mandarin. You try to use Google Translate and realise that it is not accurate enough. Press two buttons in the whym app and a professional interpreter will be available via the loudspeaker on your smartphone to interpret accurately, back and forth between you and the nurse/doctor/pharmacist. whym can also be used in business meetings, at trade shows, in hotels and airports - indeed anywhere that two people speaking different languages need to be clearly understood.
What platform is whym available on and can it be integrated?
whym is available on iOS and Android phones. It was designed at the outset to be easily integrated with other travel apps. We envisage travel companies offering an "Access an Interpreter" button within their own apps which will then invoke the whym service which could be white-labelled.
What languages are currently available?
The current app provides interpreters between English and 13 other languages. It can be downloaded from the AppStore and GooglePlay in any country in the world and so far we have had downloads in more than 30 countries. We are working on a version to serve Mandarin to seven other languages to support Chinese travellers (target to be available in Q4 2017) and have plans for versions in Japanese, Korean, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese during 2018.
What do travel managers like about whym?
Travel managers see whym as a natural extension of their duty of care services. TMCs see whym as providing them with a useful added-value service and a possible incremental revenue generator.
Why do travellers like whym?
Travellers enjoy the security of knowing that they have immediate access to professional interpreters in the event of real need. They also like the incredible simplicity of the user interface.
What are whym's growth plans?
During the remainder of 2017 we will focus on the UK outbound travel market, looking to partner with TMCs, OTAs and airlines. We will start to partner with companies servicing inbound travellers into UK.
At the end of 2017 we aim to start actively looking for partners in USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. By the end of 2017 we will launch a B2C product in China and look to develop industry partnerships in China during 2018. We have plans to launch in Korea and Japan in the first half of 2018 and in Southern Europe in the second half of 2018.