Bengaluru: Kumar Rangarajan, a serial entrepreneur who sold his start-up Little Eye Labs to Facebook Inc. in 2014, has floated Slang Labs, which attempts to build software that can allow internet companies to accept voice commands from customers similar to Apple Inc.’s Siri.
Bengaluru-based Slang Labs has already secured funding worth Rs8.12 crore from venture capital firm Endiya Partners, according to filings with the Registrar of Companies.
The firm develops mobile software for accepting voice commands in English and Indian languages.
Rangarajan refused to comment on the funding, but he said the company is in talks with more investors to raise additional funds.
After selling his start-up to Facebook, Rangarajan and his co-founder Giridhar Murthy moved to Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters where they worked for three years.
Rangarajan and Murthy’s return to Bengaluru comes as start-ups in content and media are seeing increased investor attention with companies like ShareChat, Clip, Pratilipi and others raising capital from venture capital firms in the past year.
The content wave in India comes on the back of a sharp fall in mobile data prices and increasing access to cheap smartphones.
But as more and more Indians go online, established tech companies and emerging start-ups are faced with a problem—not all incoming internet users know English. Mobile apps and Web interfaces are realizing that they need to offer their services in multiple Indian languages. Additionally, internet companies also want to make it easier for users to buy products and browse their apps using voice commands.
Slang Labs is trying to solve these problems by allowing users to communicate orally with apps. This functionality can be integrated into any mobile app or Web app using an application programming interface (API), Rangarajan said over the phone.
The start-up will launch officially next month, and it will target tech start-ups and established companies in segments including news and media, travel and ticketing, online delivery, logistics, and fintech.
“The current interaction model with apps is text and touch interface, and this is pretty much old and is meant for evolved users or users who have witnessed the birth of PCs and other gadgets…this has to change," said Rangarajan.
According to him, voice is the easiest way for people to communicate with apps and it will eventually become the future of mobile interaction. Slang Labs has developed VoiceUI, an interaction feature, which Rangarajan believes is a far more natural and intuitive method for interacting with a smartphone.
He added that computers and smartphones which already support voice input need to communicate back to the user in their own language along with a graphical output.
This means that a user trying to order food online can ask for vegetarian dishes using voice input, and the mobile app will directly scroll to the vegetarian section, without the user having to scroll or tap multiple times. Rangarajan said that the platform is currently live in English. Hindi will be rolled out by end of this year, and he plans to add support for more local languages by next year.
Slang Labs is currently in private mode and the company plans to open-source its platform. “We are definitely looking to open source our APIs in the future, and it is something we are interested in, but we are yet to decide what parts of the platform could be distributed to developers via open sourcing," said Rangarajan.