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Ratan Tata backs artificial intelligence startup Niki.ai

Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata

Bangalore-based artificial intelligence startup Niki.ai has raised an undisclosed amount of investment from Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons.

Existing investor Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures also participated in this funding round.

In October 2015, Unilazer had invested an undisclosed amount in the startup, and also made a commitment of a follow-on investment round of up to Rs 5 crore.

“Chatbots have now picked up globally and Niki has been at the forefront of this innovation, building the technology for over a year now. We continue to support the team as we believe in their vision to simplify transactions for consumers,” said Screwvala.

Niki.ai, owned and operated by Techbins Solutions Pvt. Ltd, was founded in April 2015 by four IIT Kharagpur alumni — Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel and Shishir Modi. The startup has built a product named Niki, a bot that lets users order anything through a chat interface. The startup leverages natural language processing and machine learning technologies to converse with customers over a simple chat interface, and places their orders with partner businesses within seconds.

The company, which has a 21-member team, works on a channel partnership model and generates revenue for every order processed on its platform. It is now, also working with brands to provide them chatbots for their use case and application. It claims that the product supports end-to-end bookings for Ola and Uber cabs and has a first-of-its-kind in-chat payment option using the Paytm wallet.

Niki.ai has partnered with 25 brands. Currently, Niki chatbot offers bill payments, cab booking, recharge, food ordering, home services, cricket scores among other services to its users. It has a user base of 40,000 spread across India, the company said in its statement.

“The vision with Niki is to be the enabler for everything commerce, across platforms whether Android, iOs, messaging or otherwise,” Jaiswal added.

Globally, chatbots have been much talked about, with Facebook opening its Messenger Platform for developers during the F8 conference last month. Microsoft, Slack, Telegram, Kik have all opened their platforms to develop chatbots. It’s been considered the next leap in innovation with bots as the new apps. Only yesterday, Google announced its chat app Allo powered by machine learning capabilities, as its answer to Amazon’s Echo.

There are a few Indian startups in the artificial intelligence space that are gaining attention. In January 2016, Snapshopr, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup that specialises in visual search and image recognition, secured an undisclosed amount in angel funding led by former Flipkart CTO Amod Malviya.

Last year in December, Mumbai-based AI startup Arya.ai raised $750,000 (around Rs 5 crore) in pre-Series A round of funding from YourNest Angel Fund and VentureNursery members. In fact, Arya.ai was the first Indian startup to be selected by Paris&Co, a French innovation agency, as one of 21 companies globally that do standout innovations.

In August last year, Samsung and Wipro Ventures invested under $20 million in US-based Vicarious, a robotics startup that enables computers to achieve human-level intelligence. The Silicon Valley-based Vicarious was founded by India-born entrepreneur and researcher Dileep George along with Phoenix in 2010.

Also, data analytics and AI startup Retention.ai was snapped up by mobile news curator Inshorts in October 2015. The technology will be used to strengthen Inshorts’ customer retention efforts.

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