The AI Revolution in India


As a developing country, India faces multiple challenges on the growth and development fronts. Issues such as overpopulation, illiteracy, uneconomical agriculture, unemployment, low productivity plague the economy. While thinking about long term development in the Indian economy, there are three main areas that one must focus on – agriculture, healthcare and education. Each of these have their own importance in the economy. The interesting part about these three is that there are AI solutions that are applicable to help make tangible improvements. This article takes a survey of developments in the startup space and the solutions they provide.

India is the second most populous country on the planet with over 1.2 billion citizens. Such a large population amplifies the intensity of the problems. On the economic front, Per Capita Income levels are low with India ranking 147th using GDP PCI figures of 2015. The primary, secondary and tertiary sectors have their own set of sector specific problems. The agricultural sector is faced with multiple risks making farming economically nonviable in many cases. The Ease of Doing Business Report 2017 released by NITI AAYOG and IDFC Institute found that labor intensive sectors face losses due to problems such as labor strikes and lockouts. On the development front, there are a different set of issues facing the country. India ranks 131 of 188 countries in the HDI rankings as per the 2016 report. The ranking is terrible in itself, and add to that the fact that last year we witnessed a 27 percent drop in our score as regional disparities grew. Illiteracy is high, access to healthcare is poor and skewed, inequality continues to rise. On one hand, almost 21.9 percent of the population lives below the poverty line as per ADB and on the other, as this article is being written, Mukesh Ambani is ranked the 21st richest man on the planet with a net worth of US$ 39.7 billion. According to Oxfam, 57 billionaires in the country have as much wealth as the bottom 70 percent.

In light of the growing emphasis on AI, firms are developing solutions focused at these specific problems. Apart from global giants such as Microsoft and IBM working on AI, there is a vibrant start-up system in India. A report by Zinnov states that there are 2277 AI start-ups globally with a market size of over $ 14.28 billion. Compared to China and US, India lags far behind in the use of AI. However, it is also important to note that despite the lag, India has its fair share of AI start-ups. India has over 170 AI start-ups with total funding of $36 million over the past few years. The average founding year for the start-ups is 2013. Bengaluru tops the list with 64 AI based start-ups, followed by Delhi with 24 start-ups. Most of these start-ups are into building verticalized use applications for various cases. According to a 2017 report by Kalaari Capital, among dedicated AI-only Indian start-ups, 23% are working on providing solutions to multiple industries, 15% in e-commerce, 12% in healthcare, 11% in education, 10% in financial services, and the rest in fields such as retail and logistics.

AI start-ups in India are emerging with their unique perspectives in different fields. In the agricultural sector, many Agro-AI based start-ups today are largely involved in land mapping, tracing crop diseases and predicting yield. CropIn Technology, a start-up based in India focuses on applying AI during the sowing, harvesting and post harvesting stage of farming with its 3 different products; SmartFarms, SmartSales and mWarehouse. They collect data from fields and do data mining to determine the effectiveness of crop planning that helps predict the harvest to minimise losses. They also generate heat maps that help determine the crop conditions, pest information and other real-time insights. Agnext, another agro based start-up uses satellite imagery combined with Drone image analytics to create wheat analytics models to address issues of high nitrogen, water stress, crop stress, etc. Currently they are working to create an AI that would help solve post-harvest problems.

The health sector in India witnessed the emergence of several start-ups in the last decade, the most popular being Tricog. Tricog developed a device that acquires physiological data and ECG’s from the devices and uploads them to the cloud where the AI powered algorithms process the data and arrive at a diagnosis. It has made diagnosis and treatment quicker, reducing fatality. Sigtuple, a start-up uses AI to improve the speed and accuracy of blood reports. AI in the health sector today is widely being used for cancer detection. Niramai Health Analytix’s Niramai cancer screening solution is a thermal analytics-based cancer detection device that uses big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning for reliable and early detection of breast cancer. Similarly, Qure.Ai uses deep learning to diagnose and provide treatment plans for cancer based on patient’s history and data reports collected through radiology and pathology.

Embibe, a start-up that started in 2013, aims at developing the education sector in India. It collects data from students and helps them improve their test scores by using AI to fix basic mistakes. Flutura Decision Sciences and Analytics, an IOT intelligence company is gaining popularity among students and academicians in the Engineering and Energy Industry. It is helping to develop monetizable business models using machine signals.

These are really powerful solutions that are being developed to tackle with the pertinent problems in the country. They have the power to make a significant change in their target areas, and  it is through these AI-led start-ups that India will propel to the forefront.


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