As Google sets up Artificial Intelligence lab in Bengaluru, is it the next big thing for startups?

With Google set to open its AI lab in Bengaluru, the I-T City is becoming a favourite hub for startups using this technology

Published: 21st October 2019 09:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2019 09:04 AM   |  A+A-

The number of startups that have adopted AI-backed solutions is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 54-58% over the next five years.

The number of startups that have adopted AI-backed solutions is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 54-58% over the next five years.

Express News Service

Tech giant Google’s recent decision to set up a research lab — Google Research India — focussing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its applications in Bengaluru has kindled a wider interest of many in AI.

From using this technology in the form of drones to spraying pesticides in tea gardens to regulating traffic more effectively, AI has made its foray into several spheres of our day-to-day life.

AI in simple terms implies that the machines are made more intelligent and responsive, like humans, which makes many routine business processes convenient, efficient as well as less time-consuming.
India’s tryst with digitisation is not an old story, but the pace at which the country has embraced technology is mind-boggling. With 627 million Internet users, India is now on its way to compete with superpowers such as China and the US to produce advanced technology.

Bengaluru — India’s Silicon Valley — is the biggest contributor to the country’s staggering growth as a leading technology force globally.

With more than 100 MNCs housed in the city, including some of the global IT behemoths and nearly 7,500 startups, Bengaluru has not only attracted some of the biggest foreign investors and venture capitalists to invest in the country, but has also become home to India’s brightest innovators and entrepreneurs.

According to a 2019 survey done by the Analytics India Magazine, the highest increase in year-on-year analytics revenues for an Indian city came from Bengaluru — from $539 million in 2017 to $739 million in 2018 (an increase of 37%).

The role of advanced technology such as automation, AI and Internet of Things in putting Bengaluru on the global tech map is, perhaps, most significant considering the rate at which both big companies as well as startups have adopted these technologies.

According to a study done by Microsoft, 77% of business leaders who were polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organisation’s competitiveness.

However, on the flip side, only one-third of the organisations in India have embarked on their AI journeys. Those companies that have adopted AI expect it to increase their competitiveness by 2.3 times in 2021.

Be it software giant Infosys or a three-year-old startup, the adoption of AI has happened on multiple levels — from reskilling employees, simplification of data analysis to customer interaction. “Today, every company is a software company, and increasingly, every interaction is digital. To be successful in this new world, organisations need to be fast adopters of best-in-class technology, including AI. In addition, they need to start building their own unique digital talent and ensure that all of this is based on trust and security,” Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer, Microsoft India, said.

Microsoft estimates that by 2021 AI will more than double the rate of innovation improvements (x2.2 times) and employee productivity gains (x2.3 times) in India, according to the country’s business leaders.

Bengaluru has 25% of total tech startups in India and is a host to some of the biggest startups (unicorns -- with more than $1 billion valuation). A survey by the IT traders association, Nasscom, observed that the adoption rate of AI by startups has increased by more than 50% from 2017 to 2018 and that nearly 1,200 tech startups started their operations in Bengaluru alone. The number of startups that have adopted AI -backed solutions is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 54-58% over the next five years.

The investments both global as well as domestic in the tech startups, particularly those providing AI solutions, have also increased to $133 billion in Bengaluru in 2018 alone. San Jose and Bengaluru-based robotics process automation company, Automation Anywhere, alone bagged $300 million investment from Tokyo-based SoftBank.

“Increasing competition, changing regulatory environment and the need for instant gratification from consumers are all changing the dynamics of how global brands attract, retain and grow their customer base. GCCs in India have led a silent digital revolution for their parent organisations to stay relevant by leveraging automation, analytics and AI to create new business models.” Milan Sheth, Executive Vice President for India And Middle East, Automation Anywhere said.

Bengaluru, a hub of global innovation research centres

The work on advanced applications and solutions where AI could be used is consolidated by the research and development (R&D) centres that have been set up by various global firms in the city.
Apart from Google, global consumer firm Samsung announced that it will hire around 1,000 engineers from IITs and NITs to work in its Bengaluru centre. Microsoft’s research lab also aims to bring innovation through AI to bring larger societal good.

The Mercedes Benz Research And Development Centre, which was founded in Bengaluru in 1996, is now making heavy investments in cutting edge technologies such as deep learning and AI. Various other global firms such as Bosch, Paypal, Philips and Erricson have also invested in their research centres in Bengaluru not only for creating advanced solutions but also adding to their workforce.

Government-corporate tie-ups

Not just startups, big corporates have not only mentored and re-skilled their employees for advanced tech skills, but also entered into strategic partnerships with Union and State Governments. Global IT giant IBM recently announced that it would train 10,000 faculty members from various industrial training centres (ITIs) on AI skills to use the technology for their day-to-day activities.
Nasscom also signed an agreement with the Karnataka Government to promote research and development in the state, particularly in AI. “Karnataka has pioneered its way to position itself as the prime destination for engineering and research in the country with over 35% of the total IT exports coming from the state,” Debjani Ghosh, President, Nasscom, said.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions) and self-correction

Fast forward

The Indian Army also plans to use AI in the future. It will help us in gathering information, making decisions and becoming a more destructive fighting machine, South Western Army Commander Lt Gen Alok Kler had recently said

AI could soon come as a boon to those who complain of  BMTC buses ‘trespassing’ into their lanes on Bengaluru roads as it is mulling using AI along its planned bus-priority lane. The buses will have AI cameras with facial recognition. The cameras “will send data to servers for analytics on the driver’s behaviour like speed, sleep and so on,” said a top BMTC official

Top AI Players

Bengaluru is the front-runner when it comes to AI action in India, housing almost 31% of AI firms
It is followed by NCR that houses around 25% of AI firms. Mumbai comes third housing 14% of AI players
33% of AI professionals in India are working in Bengaluru, followed by 30% in Delhi/NCR
(A report by Great Learning and Analytics India Magazine)

Google’s AI lab in Bengaluru 

Google recently announced its first Artificial Intelligence lab in India — Google Research India — which will be set up in Bengaluru. It will explore the solutions to the current challenges the country is facing by providing AI-backed solutions. The initiative also involves collaboration with scientific and academic institutions across the country.

Veteran technologist and Infosys Foundation Chair Professor at International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Bangalore, Manish Gupta, will head Google’s AI research project in India.

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