Artificial intelligence has emerged as the hottest technology area and the number of start-ups in India from this segment is only increasing every year.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become the dominant theme in the technology world today, engaging the attention of every enterprise as it is set to become a disrupter for all industries. It is not only the technology companies which are developing new platforms based on AI but also the start-up community which is throwing up innovative solutions. In India, the trend is no different with many of the large technology services companies coming out with their own AI platforms even as a growing number of start-ups are focused on this technology. ‘The Indian Start-up Ecosystem – Traversing the maturity cycle’, a report jointly prepared by Nasscom and Zinnov, highlighted the key trend on the AI focused start-ups in India. According to the report, AI focused start-ups are the fastest growing at 75%, cutting across verticals such as fintech and health-tech. The Nasscom-Zinnov report also states that 33% of funding in the fin-tech segment of start-ups is going towards advanced technologies such as AI & advanced analytics.
Similarly, 31% of health-tech funding is towards technologies such as AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced analytics. Manish Singhal, founding partner, Pi Ventures, an early-stage fund which is focused on AI, machine learning and Internet of Things, said, “We are seeing about eight good AI startups every month and the quality of these firms are only improving.” The key element which is driving these start-ups is the presence of digital data which can be harnessed through AI to build use cases which can be implemented in the real world.
According to Nasscom, data science and AI technologies allows harnessing complex, high volume, high speed data into insights for decision making, emerging as the one of biggest growth opportunities for India to capitalise on. “In recent times, AI has emerged from the confines of scientific labs and found various uses to impact everyday life. It has found applications across industries – financial services, automotive, healthcare, and retail, to name a few,” it said. This technology is also transforming the IT-BPM industry—AI-led automation is likely to deliver $100-120 billion in net productivity-led gains for IT-BPM service providers by 2025, Nasscom said. V Balakrishnan, former board member of Infosys and founder of Exfinity Venture Partners, which focuses on investments in business-to-business companies, said, “The momentum in new AI start-ups in India is good and the trend is only strengthening.” The growth of AI start-ups in India is also a sign of maturity in the Indian technology industry ecosystem. The presence of multi-billion dollar technology services companies, global software product companies with their R&D bases in India and a venture capital industry focused on this segment has opened up new opportunities. This expansive ecosystem has given rise to a talent pool which has a deep understanding on the various nuances of AI technology.
Singhal looks at this also as a natural progression of technologies where there has been shift from cloud to mobile and now towards AI. The key factor which is driving these start-ups is the presence of data, which is generally considered as the new oil. According to Balakrishnan, “Earlier people were talking about AI, but were not able to build good use cases but now they can showcase concrete implementation examples. This has also caught the investors’ attention.” Keeping in line with this trend, the government of Karnataka has announced the launch of a Centre of Excellence for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (CoE-DS&AI) with Nasscom as its programme and implementation partner. This CoE which will see an estimated investment of `40 crore, is a public private sector partnership model and is expected to provide the impetus for the development of data science and AI across the country.
Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar said, “Businesses across the globe are undergoing rapid changes propelled by digital disruption. Considering the opportunity that emerging digital technologies that will provide in times to come, this CoE-DS&AI is strategically placed to provide data-backed solutions to many complex problems of the world.” The Centre of Excellence will provide high-end technology capabilities, data, expertise, thought leadership, and curated programs to augment capabilities across academia, enterprises, government, and innovators / advanced start-ups.
AI in all probability will remain the dominant trend going forward as boundaries are being pushed in terms of how much technology can be leveraged to make everyday life better. Start-ups in India focused on this segment will continue to deliver cutting-edge solutions which were unimaginable a few years back.