Jeff Bezos once said, “Invention comes in many forms and at many scales. The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash their creativity – to pursue their dreams.”
Inspiring examples of such invention and empowerment were showcased at Amazon AI Conclave, billed as ‘the largest and most unique AI event in the country’. Attracting participation from over 1,000 data scientists and thought leaders across fields, the event was all about discussing, displaying and learning about proven best practices solutions, networking with industry peers and Amazon experts, and fostering new collaborations to drive AI innovation. Last, but not least, it was about showcasing and honouring groundbreaking work being done in AI across the country with the Amazon AI Awards.
Putting ML in the hands of every developer
“Our mission is to put ML in the hands of every developer,” said Puneet Chandok, President – India & SAARC, Commercial Sales, Amazon Internet Services, as he delivered the welcome address. “Post-2012, compute has been doubling every 3.4 months. In just a year and a half, the time required to train a large image classification system on cloud infrastructure has fallen from about three hours in October 2017 to about 88 seconds in July 2019. During the same period, the cost to train such a system has fallen similarly,” he added, quoting the Artificial Intelligence Index Report 2019.
Puneet also spoke about how more Machine Learning happened on AWS than anywhere else, citing impressive metrics that included over 10,000 customers, twice the customer references and that eighty-five percent of all Tensorflow-based projects in the cloud are running on AWS. He also referenced how Freshworks, India’s locally grown and globally known SaaS player adopted hyper-personalised customer service using ML and saw ticket resolution improve by 37 percent.
Ending by talking about how AWS was innovating AI & Machine Learning for India, Puneet elaborated on India-relevant products such as Amazon Comprehend, Amazon Polly, Amazon Transcribe, and Amazon Translate.
AI at Amazon
Delivering the keynote, Denis Batalov, Worldwide Technical Leader, ML & AI, AWS, spoke about how keen Amazon was about its AI partnerships with the broadest and deepest set of AI & ML services for businesses with over 200 new features and services launched in 2019 alone. Denis also spoke about how ML was not an aspirational technology anymore, but pervasive to many industries and was moving from disrupting automation (where he cited NASCAR as an example) to disrupting invention as in the case with Convoy, a company that’s revolutionising trucking through Machine Learning. Denis concluded by giving the audience pointers on how to innovate for the future: champion an ML culture, focus on the data strategy, build skills as a team, find the right business problems to solve and ask the right questions.
Are we in an AI spring?
A panel on the above title moderated by Sunanda Jayaseelan, Editor, Leaders of Tomorrow and Anchor, ETNOW saw interesting perspectives on the AI landscape in India.
“AI and ML is not good-to-have but must-have,” said Kabir Rastogi, Head - Data Sciences, Delhivery as he also spoke about how clean data was one of the biggest challenges in india.
“Make AI powerfully simple, and serve for a global audience from day zero.” advised Kiran Darisi, Co-founder & Distinguished Engineer, Freshworks.
Talking about the challenges of a skilled tech workforce in India, Madhu Gopinathan, SVP, Data Science, MakeMyTrip, advised on building a core-strength-rich talentpool and training in-house to beat the tech talent lag. Navdeep Manaktala, Director, Digital Native Business, AISPL, spoke about India’s potential of becoming the data science hub of the world and how access to compute--available to a select few--led to a skill shortage.
Arnab Kumar, Program Director, Frontier Technologies, NITI Aayog spoke about how AI was both an economic and social opportunity, and more importantly, an India opportunity. “If a problem can be solved in India it can be exported to the rest of the world.” he concluded.
How to present AI companies to VCs
“VCs don’t necessarily want to invest in AI companies, but a great company,” said Anandamoy Roychowdhary, Director Technology, Sequoia Capital as he spoke about how AI startups should pitch to VCs.
“The chief criteria that VCs look for in a startup is the team, founders and market potential,” he added, listing the below points for a founder to consider:
- Have a dramatic and powerful customer journey story.
- Demonstrate deep understanding of the problem statement and the pain point.
- Present a different and not merely a better solution.
- Articulate the economic loop.
- Know and articulate your moats: How you are going to get and hold your advantage?.
- Keep your slides under 15 minutes.
The future is voice
Dilip RS, Head, Alexa Business (India), spoke about Alexa everywhere and how the future was voice.
“Conversational platforms will drive the next big paradigm shift,” he said, adding that it was Amazon’s vision of ‘Alexa everywhere’ as he spoke about how Amazon was enabling conversational AI platforms with over 100,000 skills worldwide available to customers.
Dilip also gave the audience a snapshot of conversational devices from Amazon including the Echo Input Portable - the India-first portable voice-controlled smart speaker; Echo Buds - the true wireless, Alexa-enabled in‑ear earphones; Echo Frames - the Alexa-powered eyeglasses; Echo Loop Ring - the smart Alexa-powered ring; Echo Flex the plug-in smart speaker for smart home control; and screen-based devices - products that complement Alexa voice responses with rich visuals.
Dilip also presented other innovative partner integrations of Alexa like the Mybox Alexa Kit for set-top boxes, BoAt Alexa built-in devices and more. He also showcased Alexa’s Indian language innovations including how Alexa supported colloquial Hindi speech, its multi-language mode, Guard mode and Whisper mode.
The winners’ circle
The Amazon AI Awards were created to honour and put the spotlight on innovators who are proving to be real game-changers with ideas that can create a significant impact. This year, there were over 370 applications for the Amazon AI Awards, from companies doing cutting-edge work in AI across categories like Retail & eCommerce, Heathtech, Media and Entertainment, Enterprise & Industrial IT, Fintech, Women In AI Tech, and a surprise category - AI for Good. Solutions were judged across parameters including maturity of use case, stage of productisation, and the novelty of approach and business model. The award ceremony was hosted by Shradha Sharma of YourStory.
Retail & eCommerce: Stylumia
Stylumia is a B2B SaaS platform, which aims to help fashion and lifestyle businesses make informed decisions. Their product Stylumia MIT helps discover winning products globally in a few clicks. Stylumia FIT is a Visual Business Intelligence using computer vision for fashion brands and retailers and Stylumia Apollo helps predict future trends and intelligent distribution of products to different stores.
Heathtech: Radical HealthTech
Radical HealthTech, the largest provider of AI-based fundus screenings in India analyses retinal images for signs of ophthalmic and systemic disorders like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Their solution, Minerva, is an AI-powered and beautifully designed EMR software, creating a vast data lake of structured medical data for commercial and research use.
Media and Entertainment: Deepsync
Deepsync Technologies is using AI to produce human-level content across languages, genres at a fraction of the time and cost. The technology takes different languages, genres and other nuances and infuses it into the voice. They have built voice cloning to allow producing audio content faster and cheaper, which will help reinvent content production.
Enterprise & Industrial IT: Draftspotting Technologies Private Limited (SpotDraft)
SpotDraft started off as an online platform to help people create contracts and automate their invoices and evolved to offer contract creation, contract management and contract analysis powered by AI.
Fintech: Karza Technologies Private Limited
Karza is a banking and business intelligence solution provider that provides cloud-based solutions for lending decisions and assists lending institutions in addressing critical issues of NPAs and loan frauds through big data.
Fintech (Special Mention): Namaste Credit
Namaste Credit, is a B2B loan marketplace facilitating easy credit for SMEs. The Bengaluru-based B2B loan marketplace is automating the process of underwriting loans. With 80 banks using the platform as of now, the startup has disbursed INR 1,700 crore, so far.
Women In AI Tech: Blue Sky Analytics
Blue Sky Analytics is a space-tech startup, providing high-resolution and high-frequency environmental data to global stakeholders using its in-house proprietary AI-enabled solutions. The startup provides contextualised air quality information, real-time air quality data with next three-day predictions, long time series historical data, comparing air quality of multiple stations, user engagement via gamification, news aggregation , etc.
AI for Good: Trakitnow Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
Moskeet, a Smart Mosquito Control Management solution from Trakitnow Technologies, helps in the eradication of mosquito-borne diseases. Moskeet is the world’s first commercially available mosquito trap that can autonomously detect the mosquito species. Moskeet is designed and developed as an affordable solution for underdeveloped and developing countries.
The winners walked away with Amazon devices, AWS credit, third-party startup offers, technical advisory from AWS experts, introductions to companies that comprised the target audience and mentoring sessions from industry experts.