The Growth & Promise of AI in India
Pin-pointing the origin of a wave to a single originating point is usually hard, but it is our human nature to still look for that one specific event. In the case of the current AI wave, the one specific event was the win, by a significant margin of a Deep Learning Network implemented by Alex Krizhevsky, Ilya Sutskever and Geoffrey E. Hinton of University of Toronto, at the ImageNet competition in October 2012.
That singular achievement in Toronto, triggered the imagination of computer scientists and tech entrepreneurs globally, as well as in India. Two of the earliest Indian startups to bet on that AI wave in 2014, were Mad Street Den and Parallel Dots. While Mad Street Den focused on Computer Vision and Retail Applications, Parallel Dots took a broader approach to building NLP and Computer Vision solutions for a wide variety of industries.
In the next two years, tens of chatbot startups and almost as many, focused on computer vision for different applications had sprung up in India. The next milestone of growth of AI in India, came in 2016, with the setting up of an AI focused early stage VC fund called Pi Ventures. When VC funds become willing to focus their bets on a sector, it means there is a great deal actually happening on the ground.
Today, most are confident that India is firmly set on the path to AI greatness, but journeys are rarely straightforward.
Can India bear the cost of AI tech?
Developing AI technology is not an inexpensive proposition. Though not as expensive as developing hardware or electronics, AI is also not a pure-software endeavor. There are significant server costs involved in training advanced AI/ML algorithms. Availability of annotated data is the other associated cost. Today, most publicly available annotated data uses US social concepts in American English, which restrict the use of those trained AI models in Indian contexts. For India to benefit from AI we also need to invest in annotating data from India.
In countries like China, as they get deeper into mass surveillance, there is a natural push towards adoption of AI technology. As an advocate of individual rights to privacy, however that is not a direction I would recommend for any government. And surveillance is not the only reason governments should be promoting the adoption of AI technology.
The Indian government has already become involved and released a discussion paper for formulating a strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Key focus areas for intervention are going to be Healthcare, Agriculture, Education, City Infrastructure and Transportation. Like all significant technological waves and like the telecom revolution prior to this, Artificial Intelligence will also need the strong support of the government to ensure that we do not lag behind.
Access to Customers
Early adopters of AI technology are based in the developed markets due to socio-economic reasons. Indian businesses find it less useful to use AI based automation, as a team of people are able to perform those tasks reliably and at a reasonable cost in India. Access to customers who are early adopters of AI tech, will remain a challenge for Indian AI startups, as signing up customers in foreign markets is not going to be easy.
Availability of Data
Most of India’s digitization and data accumulation is on the consumer side, within the confines of platforms owned by US based corporations like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. As owning our own data is the only way we can benefit from AI technology, it’s the first step for every Indian business. They must gain appreciation of the benefits of their data combined with AI technology and adopt modern data management practices and further invest in aggregating the data of their own businesses. Though AI may seem like a distant buzzword, it is highly unlikely that any industry, even in India, will be left untouched by the impact of AI.
India’s promising AI startups
Opportunity hides just behind challenges, evidenced by the thriving AI startup ecosystem in India. These smart startups from India are tackling not just technology but the ecosystem challenges head on in multiple industries.
Once India gets its act together on aggregating healthcare data, a lot more AI startups will come up in this domain, but we are already seeing some interesting solutions for healthcare.
- Boltt Sports Technologies: Artificial intelligence based mobile health and fitness coaching
- Qure AI: Builds deep learning solutions that aid physicians with routine diagnosis and treatment, allowing them to spend more time with patients
This domain has became quite crowded, and not all of its hype came through.
- Wysa: AI conversational agent shown to help improve mental health
- Haptik: Conversational AI Platform
- Tripeur: Conversational Commerce in Enterprise Travel
- Senseforth: Leading Conversational AI solutions Company.
Service companies providing solutions for larger enterprises has been a well-trod model in India, so its no wonder there are many companies in this category.
- Manthan: Offer a portfolio of business-ready products in advanced analytics and big data for consumer industries.
- Crediwatch: Amplified Intelligence for Business and Enterprise.
- Playment: Fully managed data labeling platform generating training data for computer vision models at scale.
- iMerit: Labels and enriches data which powers the most advanced algorithms in ML and Computer Vision.
- ParallelDots: Develop artificial intelligence solutions for developers, startups, and enterprises.
- Blue Sky Analytics: Geospatial Data Intelligence company using ML/AI to build an environmental data stack
- Quadrical AI: Prediction and anomaly detection AI/ML algorithms for Ecommerce, Retail, Travel, Insurance, Fintech and IoT based solutions.
- Arya.ai: Deep Learning platform offering multiple tools to build, manage and scale complex Deep Learning applications.
- Vernacular.ai: Multilingual artificial intelligence platform for businesses
- Elephanta AI: Provide deployment-ready enterprise AI solutions for data-driven organizations, at speed and scale.
As a natural numbers driven domain, Fintech is a great fit for AI. The top challenge for businesses in this space is the cost of customer acquisition and low or negative margins, which AI helps address.
- MoneyOnClick: Uses AI/ML to provide unsecured large ticket loans (non-payday) to underserved middle income segment customers in small cities of India
- OptaCredit: OptaCredit is an artificial intelligence-powered, data-driven online lender
- FinBox: FinBox digitizes customer journeys for Banks and NBFCs & to help them underwrite NTC customers using alternative data from the smartphone.
Making processes efficient and reducing costs has always been a core focus for Indian business – making AI solutions a great partner.
- inFeedo: Predictive people analytics company helping voices feel heard and valued
- EdGE Networks: NextGen technology solutions for workforce transformation powered by data science and artificial intelligence.
- Leena AI: Smart AI powered HR companion dedicated towards engaging employees.
- Vizzbee: Autonomous Drone Solutions for last mile delivery, as well as search and rescue
- LogFuze: IoT Analytics
- Instahyre: Advanced hiring platform based on AI and ML, enabling recruiters to hire top talent.
Retail is an excellent entry point for AI startups in India, as there’s a lot of aggregate data which allows them to quickly monetise their technology and solutions.
- Digital Mall of Asia: Immersive digital presence by leveraging AR/VR technology.
- Intelligence Node: Big Data firm which helps brands and retailers with pricing and merchandising analytics.
- Fabulyst: AI driven virtual personal stylist, solving modern women’s style aspirations.
- Antuit: Antuit delivers AI solutions, solving their marketing, merchandising and supply chain challenges, to transform our clients’ companies.
This is a domain where it is easiest to find customers in India, but difficult to both monetize and to collect data.
- Fasal: Climate Smart Precision Agriculture Platform
- CropIn: Deep learning AI and Data-led agri-tech organization that provides SaaS solutions to agribusinesses globally.
- Intello Labs: Image matching and ML to measure crop quality.
- TartanSense: AI powered robotics solutions provider empowering small farm holders.
Dominated by marketing automation products (as its always been data driven) makes it harder for AI startups to provide a unique value proposition.
- 3RDFlix: Immersive experiences company
- Bobble AI: Smarter Phone Experience with AI
- Frrole: AI-Powered Next-Gen Consumer Intelligence platform for marketers, analysts, product owners, recruiters, and sales.
Natural domain for AI, due to availability of vast amounts of sensor data. The key challenge is that high quality sensors can be expensive, but one strong advantage of using AI technology is getting great results, even with low cost sensors.
- Zenatix: Energy data analytics company providing energy management and analytics solutions.
- Amber Flux: Edge Micro services for Industrial IOT, 5G, with multiple US patents.
One of the domains which has always taken a data driven approach.
- CloudSEK: Infosec Risk assessment company providing intelligence needed to tackle online threats.
- TAC Security: Leading cyber security consulting partner specializing in securing IT infrastructure.
The above list contains startups creating value primarily on the basis of AI technology, though overall there are many more startups and businesses in India which are leveraging AI technology for their products and services. Please feel free to share missed names in comments.
The Next 5 years for AI in India
It has now been five years since the first wave of AI startups kicked-off in India; and the next five promise to be even more exciting, driven primarily by two key factors.
More Data and Even More Data
Per smartphone user, India already has one of the highest data usage in the world, which generates enormous amounts of consumer data. On the business side, while the larger businesses and the government make a push for Digital Transformation (current big buzzword in the Industry) and generate increasing amounts of business data, smaller retailers will not allow themselves to be left behind.
One of the fastest growing categories of products for small retailers is a smartphone based credit management solution combined with tools to get online. All of this is going to make India one of the most data rich countries, and where there is data, you can swing the AI hammer.
Complex Problems need Smart Solutions
India is one of the most diverse economies in the world. The problems India faces due to increasing urbanisation, investments in infrastructure development and managing of its growth, are of an unprecedented scale and complexity. Such complex problems, require smarter solutions.
AI technology adoption will enable India to bypass years and even decades of painful growth by making it more manageable with smarter AI-powered solutions. India is also a highly value conscious market. The prime reason why mobile penetration compared to computers was so rapid in India, as they provided a much greater ROI. We can see that the adoption of AI tech will be much more rapid than India’s adoption of digital technologies in general, because the higher RoI will be appealing to value conscious buyers of business technology.
I hope you too are excited to bet on this extraordinary technology wave of our generation. Please do reach out if you would like to talk further about AI technology solutions and how they may help your business.
Author: Vishal ChandraShare on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest