Bootstrapped for three years, how Senseforth is building a proprietary human-like conversation platformHarshith Mallya
With a niche client base that includes HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Club Mahindra and Manipal Hospitals, Senseforth wants to help enterprises increase efficiency with its 15 special purpose bots.
“Was I just interacting with a bot or a human?” is an existential question many of us may ponder over when we get a query answered over a conversational interface on a website or support forum and it isn’t clear who or what is at the other end of the line. Some inquisitive folk may ask complex or irrelevant queries to try and ‘break the bot’.
Sridhar Marri, CEO of Senseforth, which builds intelligent bots for enterprises, believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will help people focus on more strategic work rather than invest time in grunt work. Talking about AI regulation, he notes,
We disclose up-front that one is interacting with a bot. So, there is no question of impersonating a human.
Sridhar believes that in the early stages, startups and enterprises should focus on self-regulation, as needed. In the long term, when robots powered by AI enter the workforce, Sridhar believes that regulations will need to be in place.
Senseforth was founded in 2013 and the founding team currently consists of Sridhar Marri (CEO), Krishna Kadiri (Chief Innovation Officer) and Ritesh Radhakrishna (CTO). The startup’s long-term vision is to make technology behave like an intelligent friend. Here is their story and how they have fared over the last few years.
Story so far
Prior to founding Senseforth, Sridhar was a VP at Infosys Technologies. As a part of the Infosys Management Council and Tier 1 Leadership Group, he was responsible for several strategic initiatives and had also worked with Fortune 500 companies across Europe, Asia, and the US. An alumnus of IIM, Calcutta, and National Institute of Design, he brings on board a blend of B-School strategy and D-School thinking.
Sridhar also built and led the experience design group in India and conceptualised and created InfyTV, which was touted to be the world’s first Corporate TV channel for Infosys. This experience is coming in handy now with his venture, Senseforth, where he is looking to help enterprises leverage cognitive computing and conversational interface to increase their efficiency. To that end, Sridhar is also currently pursuing his PhD in artificial intelligence.
Talking to YourStory, Sridhar, CEO, Senseforth shared that consumers’ expectations are high and they seek quality solutions in real time. He said,
We offer our customers a platform that combines cognitive computing with conversational ability to provide effective solutions. To emphasise on this technology development in order to facilitate a strong customer relationship, is our goal ahead.
Senseforth has a team of 35 employees spread across two countries — India and the US. Sridhar noted that the team had bootstrapped for about three years, but recently closed a $1.65 million seed round of funding from some undisclosed investors.
How Senseforth works and generates revenues
Senseforth is an artificial intelligence platform that mimics human cognitive abilities. To facilitate their vision, the startup also offers a range of intelligent business bots to enterprises. Built on AI, machine learning and deep learning technologies, Senseforth claims to be one of the most comprehensive action-oriented bot platforms today with a wide range of intelligent business bots in its ‘bot club’.
Senseforth operates in verticals such as banking, healthcare, telecom, e-commerce, and travel, with a niche client base which includes HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Club Mahindra and Manipal Hospitals. Its USP is that Senseforth bots can automate many human-intensive processes and increase operational efficiency across an enterprise.
Senseforth’s ‘neo-cortex’ is its AI platform named, A.ware. The startup has 15 special purpose bots ranging from use cases like remittances and sales to insights and knowledge. Based on a customer’s usage, the bot can learn and evolve through guided learning principles and also because Senseforth claims to have designed their bots to be proficient with customer emotion.
Sridhar said that Senseforth has built its technology from ground up and they use their own proprietary technology. They have also filed patents — two in India and one in the US.
Talking about the revenue model, Sridhar explained that Senseforth is a highly enterprise-focussed AI company and they work on SaaS models that can be customised. Pricing is based on scale and volume of requests or number of users handled. Elaborating on the onboarding process for a new client, Sridhar said that Senseforth’s AI engine takes about two weeks to learn from the customer data and customise its offering for that particular client.
Sector overview and future plans
Krishna Kadiri, Chief Innovation Officer, Senseforth, believes that the power of artificial intelligence is exponentially increasing with intelligent business bots revolutionising the way products and services are designed, delivered, and consumed. He said,
Advances in AI has created a disruptive environment that will invade the technology ecosphere. Intelligent bots will change the organisation’s approach from business centric to customer centric.
On the global front, tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Amazon have AI assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa that are general purpose consumer-facing bots. Senseforth’s operates in the enterprise space and Sridhar remarked that IBM Watson could be considered their biggest competitor on the global front.
Sridhar shared that compared to all the sectors they operate in, Senseforth sees more traction for some categories like the financial services and banking space. He explained,
Players in the financial space are generally faster at adopting new technologies. So, we aim to dive deeper into sectors that are working well for us, look at existing sectors, and also expand into new ones.
On the technological front, Sridhar commented that Senseforth will be opening up their platform to give clients more control. He shared,
Some clients don’t want to get into the complexities of the technology running on the backend. But some want to learn how fast the bot is learning and what it is learning. So, we have thought of opening certain aspects of our platform, so that enterprises can actually do supervised learning. This will help them and us scale faster.
Senseforth is also investing in proprietary image recognition and speech recognition to add to its existing intellectual property.