< PrevNext > Swapnil Shinde, Mezi CEO Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na … Botman! By Elizabeth West / December 14, 2017 / Contact Reporter Share Chatbots have flooded the corporate travel space in the past two years. There's artificial intelligence under the hood of each, taking in traveler preferences, travel policy parameters and historic booking data and combining it with aggregated content from traditional sources like global distribution systems and sometimes nontraditional sources like Expedia, Priceline subsidiaries and Booking.com. Crunching it all together and delivering personalized itinerary choices in a simple interface is just one piece of the puzzle for Mezi, and the technology is sharp. Shinde claims Mezi can process 60 percent of requests without a failure, and should be at 80 percent within six months. When the technology does fail, Mezi has people behind the scenes ready to take over. That human assist is where Shinde breaks with tools like HelloGbye or Hello Hipmunk, which strive for 100 percent AI capability. Instead, it sides with Kayak co-founder Paul English, who has launched Lola with similar human underpinnings but hasn't fully entered the corporate market.Where Shinde has succeeded and competitors trail is in the partnership business. Mezi hasn't ruled out corporate-direct relationships, but Shinde's strategy favors travel management companies. Mezi has signed about a dozen TMC partners, and Shinde scored big-time bringing on corporate travel tech evangelist Johnny Thorsen this year to pursue those relationships. While Mezi has additional suitors, Shinde said he's not taking additional partners right now because his vision is to integrate completely with the ones he has, not just as a so-called "pocket travel assistant" but as the next-generation TMC platform. "Our partners need to share that vision," he said. Casto Travel CEO Marc Casto does. He partnered with Mezi to launch a white-label chatbot, plus an alternative AI-supported service workflow with specialized agents who are unfettered by GDS codes and archaic interfaces. He sees a future in which AI solves an industry labor crisis for qualified agents. "Our AI-assisted agents are at least five times more productive than a traditional agent," he told BTN in September. "And the excitement among [them] has been amazing."