This consulting startup is helping businesses discover the limitless possibilities of AI

New Jersey-based Navikenz is an IT services startup that focuses on artificial intelligence consulting. It was founded in 2021 by former Birlasoft CEO Anjan Lahiri and former CHRO of Bharti Airtel Samit Deb.
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving every day, and increasingly becoming a supplementary element in our daily lives. However, many companies are yet to identify the potential use cases of AI.

Take for instance a company that had for long been manufacturing valves for oil pipelines. It was missing out on potential customers who required customised valves because it viewed the process of going through new designs and Q&A processes to develop new valves, as simply too tedious. 

Enter Navikenz, an IT Services startup that is exploring the use of AI in business enterprises. The team at Navikenz recognised that by incorporating AI solutions to keep track of its designs, the valve manufacturing company could turn around its business. 

“We realised that AI could help them keep track of their designs for different customers. All they needed to do was digitise their designs and ingest all the emails connected to the shipment data. For the next customised requirement, they could just search for similar designs they have made for previous customers. It not only dramatically improved their response time, but also eased the process of manufacturing the customised valve,” says Anjan Lahiri, co-founder of Navikenz.

Founded in October 2021 by Anjan, former CEO of Birlasoft, and Samit Deb, former CHRO of Bharti Airtel, Navikenz’s team of more than 30 people bring decades of experience from different sectors with a shared interest in AI changing people’s lives. 

Navikenz raised $4 million in seed funding in April 2022 from several high-net-worth individuals like Sudip Nandy, former CEO, Aricent, and Sekar PRC, former CEO of Hexaware

Commenting on the funding, Sudeep said, “I have personally known Anjan and some members of the founding team for decades, and backing them was a no brainer. Also, the overall environment of AI and related work with Data, that is transforming every sphere of our life and especially in the enterprise computing space, makes Navikenz an exciting startup to be associated with.”

Navikenz helps businesses unlock the potential use cases of AI

How does it work

Based out of New Jersey, United States, Navikenz has so far served six companies in the US and India.

The company has developed a management framework called Navikator, inspired by the likes of Kaizen and Total Quality Management, for developing AI-based solutions. Navikenz assigns a ‘pod’ of three professionals that includes a senior data scientist, a senior architect, and a senior business person. The trio work with the client organisation five days a month for one year to understand the client business and its workflow, and then offers its AI-based solution to improve efficiency. 

On the predominant assumption that complete reliance on consultants is an expensive model, Navikenz feels that any company that relies on cost arbitrage for serving its customers will never be sustainable.

“At Navikenz, we approach the tremendous opportunities that AI affords to customers from a business and architecture-centric point of view as opposed to just an implementation view. The type of expertise, experience, and skills that we bring to the table is very difficult for the customer to have access to, not only in the house but from implementation partners who are not as expertise-focused. That is our competitive advantage, which will continue with changing technologies and changing business models,” says Anjan.

While client teams come with various levels of maturity in their technical expertise, the Navikenz team believes that almost everyone knows the business they are in and how they want to do it. 

“Our job as their partners is to understand their business and think through the opportunities that technology can provide to their business. Through that process, we will learn a little more about their business just as they will also become a little more aware of the technology,” adds Anjan.

Growth of artificial intelligence

According to a Mordor Intelligence report, the global artificial intelligence-as-a-service market was valued at $3.91 billion in 2020. It is expected to reach $43.29 billion by 2026, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48.9 percent during the period of 2021-2026. 

Navikenz is banking on this growing popularity of AI-as-a-service, which it shares with bigger fish in the industry such as Google Cloud ML, IBM Watson and Microsoft Azure. 

However, despite the popularity, Anjan feels many organisations are spraying and praying with random platforms and applications to figure out the vastness of artificial intelligence. 

“The real problem is, we do not have any clue about the limitless possibilities of AI. But people are throwing in technology, applications, and platforms to figure out how AI works. This is not solving the problem,” says Anjan.

He also feels that life sciences, medicine and manufacturing are a few sectors that will drastically change the way artificial intelligence impacts our lives soon.

“In the post-Covid world, access to expertise has democratised itself beyond the organisation and geographic boundaries. While we have all seen this in our personal experiences over the last two years, I think this will become an even larger part of our lives in the future,” quips Anjan. 

Navikenz plans to have few customers, but with deep partnerships where they can invest in each other's knowledge by learning together and exploring the opportunities of AI.

“We believe that 95 percent of what AI can do for organisations is not known today. And nobody will discover that in silos but only by working together across boundaries. Navikenz is uniquely structured to do that in the way it is being put together,” adds Anjan. 

Future roadmap

Navikenz plans on organic growth over the next couple of years to understand the dynamic use cases of AI in businesses. Their first milestone is to have three stable customers and reach a target revenue of over $1 million in the next fiscal year. The team is also planning to hire more people from Indian colleges and universities.

Commenting on their hiring plan, Anjan says, “We are focusing on hiring people with skills related to business process consulting and enterprise architecture. Now, is that necessarily AI expertise? No. But we need a few people with deep data science and data knowledge skill. What we want to focus is on finding people who will help us with the architecture of the data and the systems in a company. It is very difficult to get the Enterprise Architecture skills you need.”

Currently, the team works virtually, and plans to establish satellite offices in Bengaluru, Noida and other cities over the years.

(This story was updated to reflect the latest team size as per the company.)

Edited by Anju Narayanan