Technology Trends 11 Aug 17

Suddenly AI and ML is all over the place! Thanks to the likes of technology giants like Facebook, Google and Apple, the concepts of AI and ML are widespread than ever before. In fact, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are often used interchangeably. However, they are different concepts used very frequently around subjects such as Cloud computing and Big Data Analytics. AI is a smarter concept of machines being able to carry out human tasks that is considered intelligent while Stanford University defines Machine Learning as the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed.   

Emergence of AI players in India

Compared to leading AI players in the Silicon Valley and China, India isn’t far behind. According to Tracxn, a start-up tracker, nearly 300 start-ups in India are using some form of Artificial Intelligence. A 2017 report published by Kallari Capital, a VC firm suggests that among dedicated AI-only Indian start-ups, 23% focus on providing solutions to various industries, 15% service the e-commerce sector, 12% in healthcare, 11% in education, 10% in financial services and the rest in fields such as retail and logistics.

In Healthcare industry, AI is used by hospitals to make accurate and speedy blood reports and diagnosis thereby saving lives. In education, the scope of AI will include addressing the 21st century skills by assisting learners with self-direction, self-assessment, teamwork and more. As AI leverages big data automation, predict and personalize, retail is evaluating and implementing these applications to garner robust competitive advantages.

There are around 170 AI start-ups in India according to Zinnov, a management consulting firm. Such is the attention around AI that in September 2016, Apple quietly acquired a Hyderabad based start-up called Tuplejump. This was Apple’s 1st acquisition in India and 3rd that year of an AI company. Tuplejump is an AI company that help clients store, process and visualize data. This provides data to ecommerce companies for improving their conversion rates. AI start-ups in India maintain a low profile and therefore doesn’t attract eye popping valuations. However, in the recent past, these start-ups have emerged as the dark horses that leading technology players such as Intel, Amazon, Google and Facebook are running after.

Intelligent use of Data

The Indian business environment has become a breeding ground for AI start-ups. Industries that thrive on proliferation of massive data such as Healthcare, Airlines and Oil refineries among a host of industry domains engage AI tools to convert data into information and scale that up to knowledge and eventually create cognitive systems. Such is the attention on AI driven systems that research firm IDC suggest that more than 50% applications built will be cognitive in nature by 2018.

AI influencing the retail industry

Massive investments are made by retailers and technology industry players on AI tools to optimize business functions automate supply chain scenarios. Two distinct use cases where investments are made on AI while creating value in the ecosystem include:

  • Marketing and Segmentation – Datasets are used by AI models to predict and prioritize successful campaigns and channels that provide insights for efficient decision making
  • Supply chain optimization – AI tools can also predict future demand supply, offer sales solutions that enhance productivity levels of the salesforce and optimize/automate inventory management.

Adoption of such tools will certainly lead to increased accuracy and timeliness over conventional retail systems. Ecommerce companies such as Amazon, Flipkart and Paytm rely heavily on AI tools to check malpractices such as fraud, improve conversion ratios and predict consumer buying behavior trends. It is equally important to understand that AI does not hold proprietorship rights. It is like using Cloud services. Since data indicates that several companies are using AI, it can be safely assumed that while AI is a new technology being used by a lot of start-ups, how they use it and what they ultimately deliver is the key.

Several real time start-up example drives home the fact that there’s significant amount of enthusiasm around AI applications and experts believe that all web interfaces will soon get replaced by AI in the recent future. However, unlike elsewhere, AI start-ups in India is still at nascent stages in the Indian retail industry, creating a new category of work. But as the retail market grows into a data-driven industry, the need to leverage information at consumer levels will become imperative. AI can further streamline processes and transform shopping experience into a more personalized experience. There is tremendous scope for AI in the retail industry that remains to be tapped. Although AI adoption raises pertinent socio-economic challenges, but it appears to be the most exciting and widespread potential capital efficiency and ROI opportunity witnessed over few years in the past.

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