Home >Industry >Media >EmTech India ‘Innovator under 35’ winner makes it to Time list

Mumbai: Thirty-year-old Umesh Sachdev, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Uniphore Software Systems Pvt Ltd, has been selected as one of the 10 ‘Next Generation Leaders’ in 2016 by Time Magazine. The annual list of ‘Next Generation Leaders’ comprises 10 individuals from various faculties that the magazine believes are doing disruptive things in their own areas.

Sachdev , who was selected for “Building a Phone That Can Understand Almost Any Language", said in an email, “I feel privileged and humbled to have made this list for 2016. This is a testament to the great people I work with and the tremendous support we enjoy from partners and customers."

In March, Sachdev was selected an ‘Innovator under 35’ by Mint and MIT Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Mint and MIT Technology Review teamed up on 1 October 2015 to identify Indian citizens under the age of 35 working on innovations that promise to shape the coming decades.

Eight winners, including Sachdev, made it to the India edition of the ‘Innovators Under 35’ list this year, and were honoured at the two-day EmTech event held on 18-19 March, in New Delhi. These eight innovators automatically became finalists for the global Innovators Under 35 list by MIT Technology Review.

Sachdev’s Uniphore Software Systems offers a suite of speech authentication and recognition products, which help government authorities and corporate entities reach rural customers by interacting with them in vernacular languages. They also present a powerful proposition for a future in which smart devices and smart machines will rely on speech for interacting with humans rather than on text inputs.

Sachdev’s journey started in early 2007 when after graduation he, along with one of his friends, Ravi Saraogi, went to the incubation centre at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, seeking to create a location-based mobile anti-theft application. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, co-chairman of the incubation cell, helped them redefine the problem. Inspired by this, the two travelled in rural Tamil Nadu to figure out what people were doing with mobile devices.

They found that though there was no infrastructure, every household had a mobile phone. However, because of the lack of English literacy and other digital skills, the people in rural areas were not using mobiles to access public services or the Internet. The biggest problem was the unavailability of these services in local languages, according to Sachdev who realized that vernacular speech is the lowest common denominator in human-machine interaction, which can be used to bridge the digital divide.

Over the next 15-16 months, Sachdev and Saraogi tapped academic research available in this area and worked with companies that were already conducting research in the field, and created a speech authentication and speech recognition program capable of interacting with humans in local languages. In 2008, Sachdev co-founded Uniphore, which primarily offers three products: Akeira, a virtual assistant, amVoice, for voice biometrics, and auMina, for speech analytics. Akeira can talk on phone, IVR (interactive voice response) and computer. But unlike Siri, it can speak in 14 Indian languages and 30 global languages.

Uniphore has been working with microfinance institutions, banks and primary healthcare centres, among others. A part of Akeira deals with recognizing and authenticating speech in different languages as well as interacting with humans, while another part communicates with the systems at the back-end like banks’ core software solutions and enterprise resource solutions for healthcare institutions.

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