AI start-ups blossom in India, need big dollars to grow

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(Tech Trend)

By Nishant Arora 

New Delhi, Sep 9: A decade ago, Artificial Intelligence (AI) was unknown to many of us mortals. Lately, however, AI and related buzzwords like Machine Learning (ML) or Big Data Analytics are more visible — staring at us from clumsy signage boards hanging at the entrance of private IT training institutes.

The bare fact is that this new category of intelligence is undoubtedly diversifying human thinking rather than replacing it as some of us fear. The technology, especially the conversational one, has shown tremendous potential — the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector being the early adopter.

Sensing the immense opportunity ahead, nearly 200 AI start-ups in India are today innovating and creating AI-based solutions for various industries.

Chatbots are slowly becoming the default customer support solution for most services and Mumbai-based Haptik is one such AI-based platform — building applications for consumers, publishers and enterprises.

Having grown 10 times in revenue in just one year, its partners and clients include Coca-Cola, HDFC Life, Samsung, Edelweiss Tokio, Goibibo, Amazon Pay, ClubMahindra, ICICI Bank and Tata Docomo, among others.

According to Kartik Poddar, Business Head, Haptik, they are amazed as well as encouraged by industry’s response and awareness regarding AI technologies in the country.

“The days of concept-selling are over and organisations are deploying AI tech for real use-cases within their businesses, with substantial knowledge regarding its general capabilities and purpose-oriented utility,” Poddar told IANS.

More than 50 per cent of Indian retail companies will be operating on AI by 2020, said PeopleStrong, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) HR technology and solutions company.

According to an Accenture analysis, AI has the potential to add $957 billion to India’s economy in 2035.

“We are just scratching the surface of the possibilities and applications of AI in business. There is huge demand and a lot of open source tools are available for start-ups to use and build interesting applications on,” informed Poddar.

For Arun Gupta, Chief Executive Officer at MoMagic Technologies — an AI and Big Data-driven mobile tech firm — India is currently witnessing an all-time high and growing online user base, especially the millennials.

The abundance of data and increased need of its error-free analysis has forced companies to turn towards technologies like AI, resulting in more and more start-ups diving into AI-driven business offerings.

According to Gupta, the digital wave is bringing in a behavioural change and technologies like AI and ML play a key role in analysing that change via the data captured

“In a country like India, with its huge population and vastly diverse demographic spread and customers available on multiple connected devices, AI today presents a big opportunity for businesses across sectors,” Gupta told IANS.

The cost of building AI-powered experiences has been reduced with disruptive technologies being democratised.

Poddar said that companies are mandated to work with innovative start-ups to develop and implement AI-driven solutions to meet specific business challenges.

“We have seen some really interesting AI applications in retail, e-commerce, healthcare, travel and banking, etc. Even the government sector has warmed up to incorporating AI-driven solutions in various public sector initiatives,” the Haptik executive told IANS.

Pune-headquartered digital entertainment firm JetSynthesys is not only developing in-house technology for AI in gaming but also scouting opportunities for new AI start-ups which can address various problems in India.

“Adoption of AI is definitely on the rise so there is space for the right start-up. Also, start-ups in India need to benchmark against global activity in this space which has also heated up significantly in the past two years,” noted Rajan Navani, MD and CEO, JetSynthesys.

According to him, manufacturing, media and entertainment, logistics, urbanisation and smart cities — along with education and healthcare — will benefit significantly from adoption of AI in the country.

A new Tata Communications study says AI is now being viewed as a new category of intelligence that can complement existing categories of emotional, social, spatial and creative intelligence.

“What is transformational about multiplicity is that it can enhance cognitive diversity, combining categories of intelligence in new ways to benefit all workers and businesses,” said study co-author Vinod Kumar, CEO and Managing Director at Tata Communications.

The seeds of AI are being sown in India and start-ups await big financing deals and dollars from venture capitalists which helped neighbouring China harbour one of the biggest clusters of AI start-ups in the world, after the US.

“Big industry players that have the financial strength and business experience to invest in AI research and development typically lead the strategic charge on global competitiveness for their country,” the Accenture analysis noted. 
Will they take cognizance of the thriving Indian start-up scene in AI which has the potential to “innovate” for the world?