MUMBAI: Telecom operator Bharti Airtel has acquired a strategic stake in Voicezen an early stage startup focused on conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
Gurgaon-based Voicezen has been working on developing advanced solutions that leverage machine learning, AI, speech to text, and voice technologies to offer real-time analytics to help brands serve customers better. The investment size was not disclosed.
Last month, Vodafone Idea, announced the launch of VIC, an AI-powered digital customer service and support virtual assistant for its customers. Rival Reliance Jio has recently collaborated with Facebook-owned Whatsapp to enable retail services through the messaging app.
Jio’s parent Reliance Industries has also invested extensively in natural language processing and AI-based chatbot startups like Reverie and Haptik with a view to expanding solutions across its app ecosystem.
Telecom operators are increasingly seeking tech partnerships and solutions to expand revenue from data customers.
“AI is a big focus area for Airtel, given the deep positive impact the technology can have in transforming customer experience. Voicezen has built some promising products that are very relevant for a market like India," Adarsh Nair, chief product officer, Bharti Airtel, said.
The investment will give Airtel preferred access to Voicezen’s technologies, which can be deployed across its customer touch points in multiple languages. These solutions will offer real-time analytics and insights to make Airtel’s conversations with its customers more engaging and friction-less and enable faster resolution and make contextual offers to customers.
Voicezen is the third startup to become a part of the Airtel Startup Accelerator Programme. Airtel has also picked up stake in Vahan Inc., a Bengaluru-based startup that uses AI to match job seekers with employers through the use of messaging services such as WhatsApp, and Spectacom Global Pvt. Ltd, a fitness-focused startup.
“Having worked on AI solutions in the past, we knew what works well in a lab most often doesn't work in the real world, because either the training data is not large and relevant or the problem has little business significance," said Apurba Nath, Founder, Voicezen.
With this strategic investment, Voicezen will work closely with Airtel to improve AI models and build out an enterprise grade, battle hardened product that will make customer interactions more efficient, especially in the post covid world where business operations are facing large disruptions, Nath added.
The global conversational AI market size is expected to grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion by 2024. The trend will be driven by surging demand for AI-powered customer support services and omni-channel deployment.
Airtel Startup Accelerator Programme allows startups to leverage Airtel’s robust ecosystem, including its core strengths in data, distribution, networks and payments. This includes access to a vast online and offline distribution network that touches 300 million customers, deep market understanding, and a platform of global strategic partners. Further, startups also get access to advisory services from Airtel’s executive team. In India, Airtel offers mobile, landline and DTH services.