HOW INDIAN STARTUPS ARE RIDING THE WAVE OF AI AND MACHINE LEARNING

AI and Indian Businesses

It seems like Artificial Intelligence(AI) is THE hot word of the startup world. 72% of the best entrepreneurs from across the word hail AI to be a “business advantage” and see it as a fundamental part of businesses in the future. However, can we take a step back and really understand what AI and its related terms like machine learning actually mean?

Gary Brotman, Head of AI Strategy & Product Planning at Qualcomm, defines AI as “techniques that help machines and computers mimic human behaviour.” In order to mimic human behaviour, machines and systems need to be smart.  The variety of techniques used in order to facilitate the machines to become smart are known as Machine Learning and Deep learning. Machine learning and deep learning are basically approaches to AI.

AI:  A friend or a foe?

With the recent introduction of the social humanoid robot Sophia, everyone including the business world got into the debate of whether or not ‘Robots are going to take over the world’ or ‘Is a machine uprising lurking around?’. Regardless of what you think, we’re already using AI more than we realize! As per a survey conducted by Pega, only 33% of people said that they use AI in daily life, whereas 77% of the survey participants were using AI-enabled devices or services. 83% of consumers surveyed also said that AI will improve the overall consumer experience.

Experts and people working closely with Artificial Intelligence cannot pinpoint the growth potential of this technology. In fact, Elon Musk, the co-founder of SpaceX, was quoted as saying “It’s difficult to appreciate just how far A.I. has advanced and how far it is advancing because we have a double exponential at work”.

However, before we start panicking and start fearing ‘the machines’, we need to understand that AI is still in its rudimentary stage. There is still a lot of time till Artificial Intelligence surpasses human intelligence (called the point of singularity by AI experts). In a survey conducted on a sample size of 6000 people, 61% believe that AI will make the world a better place. Many believe that AI is not to take over the world, but to help businesses and people help run this world better by reducing human errors.

The applications of AI in today’s world have been termed as Narrow AI – where Intelligence is deployed to perform one specific task only. Social Media Advertisements and Gaming “bots” are a few such examples.

Today, AI is empowering businesses to perform their operations faster, better and sharper.

According to a survey data from Adobe, 15% of the world’s companies deploy AI and 31% of companies have it on their agenda for the next 12 months. In another similar survey,  26% of marketing experts hailed AI to be the next big marketing trend second only to consumer personalization(29%). It is also interesting to note that consumer personalization itself is one of the major applications of AI.

AI & Indian Businesses

61% of marketing professionals, irrespective of the size of the company they hail from, said that machine learning and AI were among their most significant data initiative for the future. IBM Watson, the leader in machine learning and AI, with almost 28% market share in the AI market, is being deployed by 1489 companies including 55 companies in India.

Watson claims to help businesses perform the following tasks: a) Personalizing customer experiences; b) Streamlining operations like contracting and customer servicing; c) Sparking innovation in processes.

Indian Startups have shown a keen interest in AI and development solutions to empower businesses using AI platforms in comparison to big corporates. This has led to the rise of interesting partnership, for example, SAP India invested in the bot Niki.ai, a bot designed to enhance the ordering experience. Similarly, racetrack.ai, a virtual communications assistant for customer engagement, is making big strides in the Indian AI space.

One of the biggest examples of great AI deployment comes from Infosys and their AI platform Nia, launched in 2017. Nia is a Point-of-Contact system deployed in some banks which reported 596 million trade transactions on a node-based cluster in an AWS stack Nia was able to attain a very high message insertion rate by delivering 130,000 records per second which translate to about 18 MB per second. Essentially, this is to showcase the growth potential AI is showing in India and how startups and corporates alike are using it to enhance their business operations.

Across a time frame of 12 months from January to December 2016  a $4 billion risk capital was deployed for over 1000 startups in India. These new  VC/PE deals were announced at a rate of 4 startups per weekday, throughout the year 2016. Many  VCs predict that AI is going to be the trend to invest in, moving forward. It is the era of AI, and for Indian startups, the possibilities seem limitless with the immense potential already being deployed in addition to the growing startup investor interest in the trend. AI has become the vehicle of bringing change to the Indian startup landscape and it will continue to cause ripples of change in the manner in which business is now conducted across the country.

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