AI News, Artificial Intelligence in India – Opportunities, Risks, and Future Potential

Artificial Intelligence in India – Opportunities, Risks, and Future Potential

Given the Indian government’s recent focus on developing a plan for artificial intelligence, we decided to apply our strengths (deep analysis of AI applications and implications) to determine (a) the state of AI innovation in India, and (b) strategic insights to help India survive and thrive in a global market with the help of AI initiatives.

According to Komal Sharma Talwar, Co-founder XLPAT Labs and member of India’s AI Task Force: “I think the government has realized that we need to have a formal policy in place so that there’s a mission statement from them as to how AI should evolve in the country so it’s beneficial at large for the country.” Indeed it’s comments like Komal’s that made us realize that we should aid in determining a strategic direction for artificial intelligence development in India –

In our research and interviews, we saw consensus (from executives, non-profits, and researchers alike) that healthcare and agriculture would be among the most important sectors of focus in order to improve living conditions for India’s citizens.

is currently engaged in the following public sector initiatives: “The current areas of focus for AI applications in India are majorly focused in 3 areas: With the government’s growing interest around AI applications in India, Deepak Garg the Director at NVIDIA-Bennett Center of Research in Artificial Intelligence (and Director believes that there has been a significant growth in interest levels around AI across all industry sectors in India.

He explains that although AI attention is considerably smaller in India than in China or the USA, the increased AI interest has manifested itself in the following three ways: “1) Industries have started working to skill their manpower to enable themselves to compete with other global players 2) Educational institutions have started working on their curricula to include courses on machine learning and other relevant areas 3) Individuals and professionals have started acquiring these skills and are comfortable investing in upgrading their own skills.” Despite the initial enthusiasm for AI, there were also a few opinions from experts about a sense of unfulfilled potential and that the country could be doing far more to adopt and integrate AI technologies.

number of our interviewees mentioned the prevalence of copy-catting business models in India (taking a famous or successful business model in the USA or Europe and reconstructing it in India), as opposed to the invention of entirely new business models.

roughly 18% of the Indian GDP) have a significant potential opportunity to cater to the coming demand for data cleaning and human-augmented AI training (data labeling, search engine training, content moderation, etc).

Historically, the slower adoption of IT services by domestic Indian companies (in some cases by even by a period of around 10 years) as compared to global competitors was an indicator of the unfulfilled potential according to some experts we spoke to.

“The Indian foundation of IT services and business process outsourcing makes me believe that such AI training jobs will be even more lucrative for India than elsewhere in the future.” During the interview with him, Aakrit explained his stance with an example about the possibility that Indian BPO services providers could potentially be attractive in terms of skills and cost for tasks (which he believes will for a long time remain a manual effort) like cleaning and tagging of data in the near future.

We believe India has a major advantage over other countries in terms of talent, a vibrant startup ecosystem, strong IT services and an offshoring industry to harness the power of AI.” Kiran Rama, the Director of Data Sciences at the VMware Center of Excellence (CoE) in Bangalore also seems to agree that the cost-competitive talent in India will be an opportunity for companies looking to open offices in India: “There seems to be a lot of opportunity for companies that are setting u shop in India.

I also think there Indians are starting to contribute to the advancement of machine learning libraries and algorithms.” Subramanian Mani, who heads the analytics wing at, an online Indian grocery e-commerce firm, reiterates the idea that the IT services background in India is an advantage.

He believes that the major difference between the software and AI waves is that although India was slow to adopt software service as compared to America, this time around with the AI wave, adoption will be much faster and only slightly behind the leading countries.

Folks in India realized that they’ve been able to scale software and I think AI / ML is an extension of software development.” While software was often taught through books and in classrooms exclusively, many of the latest artificial intelligence approaches are available to learn online –

Going in, we knew that one of the key advantages for India would, in fact, be the very IT and ITeS sectors which will make it easy for Indian tech providers to transition into AI services, given that well-developed ecosystems have evolved over the past 25 years in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The state government is interested in planning and grooming for startups in this space as witnessed by the launch of the Center for Excellence (CoE) in AI setup by the GOI and NASSCOM in Bangalore.” While the advantage from the existing Indian IT sector may have been more intuitive, Madhusudan Shekar, Principal Technology Evangelist at Amazon AWS explains through an example how India’s diversity and scale (generally considered a challenge) can be an opportunity to make the best out of a tough situation: “In India, people speak over 40+ formal languages in about 800+ dialects.

To further explain,  According to a report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) the total number of internet subscribers in the country as a percentage of the overall population increased by 12.01% from December 2013 to reach 267.39 million in December 2014.

Along these lines, Mayank Kapur Co-founder of Gramener cites the increased level of data collection and the scale to which it could potentially grow as an opportunity for India in public sector AI applications: “In the public sector, we have an advantage of scale the amount of data that can potentially be gathered is huge.

Juergen Hase the CEO of Unlimit- A Reliance Group Company, one of India’s largest private sector companies, expressed his thoughts during our research: “The direct switch to mobile platforms in India means that there are no legacy systems to deal with and new technologies can be developed from scratch.” As shown in the figure to the right, an overwhelming majority of India’s Internet subscribers gain access through mobile wireless networks.

He thinks that the two underlying factors here are larger salaries lie in the corporate sector, which is potentially creating a dearth of mentors for the next generation of software developers looking to transition into AI and the availability of data. “Academia

Industry-university partnerships where students can work with real world data science applications and reskilling of existing workforces (example: getting software engineers to look at statistics or vice versa) are just beginning to take shape in India (starting with the unicorns).” The cultural factors in India play a role in talent development here as explained by Nimilita Chatterjee SVP, Data and Analytics at Equifax: “I see issues in AI talent in India are at 3 levels: The issues that Nimilita addresses above aren’t all that different from what we see in the United States (indeed in Silicon Valley) on a daily basis.

Just being cheaper than a Western idea is not true innovation… that’s not ALL that we should be thinking about.” The following points became evident through our interviews about India’s AI risks and weaknesses: In light of NITI Aayog’s recent report, and in light of our research on AI in India (and our understanding of AI’s economic possibilities in various tech ecosystems), we were determined to contribute to the national conversation about AI in India.

With the AI wave, there is the potential to catch up immediately thanks to substantial and continuing growth in internet connectivity, and India’s swollen population of young engineers could hypothetically leap directly to the cutting edge of programming, development, and data science.

With the advent of artificial intelligence, there seem to be three main transitions that could happen to the BPO and IT services sectors in India: The services sector is where much of India’s current and future growth is likely to come from (, with IT services and business process outsourcing (BPO) services employing millions of Indians.

India’s real opportunity is doing AI for social good as we have historically always been a technology test bed for social efforts and we possess the technological know-how to get it done reasonably well here.” We certainly hope that India can make the most of artificial intelligence –

India wants to fire up its A.I. industry. Catching up to China and the US will be a challenge

India's efforts come as the AI competition between China and U.S. intensifies, with China aiming to be the world leader in the space by 2030.

Milan Sheth, a partner at EY covering intelligent automation, added: 'There is a need to reskill a large number of people in a short span of time.

'It will make a bid for dominating in a few areas but can't compete with the U.S. or China on academic investment,' he said, adding that very few companies in India are getting sufficient funding for research.

That would make India the third-largest economy in the world — behind the U.S. and China, which recorded $18.5 trillion and $11.2 trillion in 2016 GDP, respectively.

India hopes to become an AI powerhouse by copying China’s model

On Feb. 01, delivering his budget speech, finance minister Arun Jaitley told parliament that the government think-tank, Niti Aayog, will spearhead a national programme on AI, including research and development. The intent showed in the numbers: Budget allocation for Digital India, the government’s umbrella initiative to promote AI, machine learning, 3D printing, and other technologies, was almost doubled to Rs3,073 crore ($477 million) this year.

Niti Aayog, led by CEO Amitabh Kant, has been a key promoter of various digital campaigns in the country, including the massive biometric programme, Aadhaar, and the India chain project, which is creating blockchain infrastructure to support IndiaStack, a set of codes developed around Aadhaar. That’s why the AI initiative has charged up tech companies.

China, a close second, is swiftly ramping up efforts. Canada, reportedly the birthplace of AI research, is fast turning into a hub with tech majors like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook setting up research labs in Montreal.   To play catch up, India is following its neighbour’s footsteps.

Last year, the Asian nation laid out an AI development plan, outlining goals for the next three years and a blueprint for its strategy until 2030. Not only are its local players, including search giant Baidu, taxi company Didi Chuxing, or internet firms Alibaba and Tencent, spending aggressively on AI, global companies like Google have also set up labs there.

And initially, it is likely to be restricted to laboratories.  “The return on investment in AI won’t be evident for a while,” said Anindya Ghose, the Heinz Riehl professor of business at New York University (NYU). The entire ecosystem—government, companies, employees—needs to brace for this period of limbo as the domains where AI can be used shape up.

India’s mess of complexity is just what AI needs

In 2010, I hired two engineers from an Indian college to help me develop a product that could automatically grade the spoken English ability of job applicants.

The excitement has reached all the way to the government: in this year’s speech on the federal budget, Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that the country will launch a national program to promote AI research and development.

The country’s diversity of languages, dialects, accents, scripts, dress, and culture presents a rich set of challenging problems for artificial intelligence.

The business process outsourcing industry is composed mostly of tasks that boil down to transcribing speech, digitizing handwritten forms, and tagging images—which can now be done very accurately by machines.

India wants to revive its manufacturing through a much publicized “Make in India” initiative, but there is little interest in using automation toward that end—in contrast to China, which has made robotization a priority.

I believe the government could help assemble a team of 500 AI researchers in India’s public institutions over the next five years by instituting an attractive AI fellowship program for faculty and PhD students.

That is just part of the improved technology ecosystem India must build to realize the potential of new tools for addressing its huge challenges in areas like health care, banking, sanitation, agriculture, and education.

AI gives India the opportunity to leapfrog some of these issues, including the corruption plaguing all these areas, via cheap diagnostic methods, automatic processing of applications, or learning and teaching aids.

For example, one young entrepreneur from Jaipur recently showed me a system that can analyze images of certain grains to ascertain their quality and estimate the price they are likely to fetch at market.

Industry and the research community need to do a better job on each side of their symbiotic relationship, in which industry provides problems and data while the research community develops algorithms and solutions.

Indian companies helped drive the country’s progress over the last three decades by creating the demand for basic programmers and supporting undergraduate programs in the universities and institutes.

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