Bharti Airtel buys 10% stake in conversational AI startup Voicezen

Bharti Airtel buys 10% stake in conversational AI startup Voicezen
Photo Credit: VCCircle
21 May, 2020

Indian telecom operator Bharti Airtel on Thursday said it has bought a 10% stake in Voicezen, an early stage startup that provides conversational artificial intelligence technologies.

The all-cash transaction was made through Airtel’s Nettle Infrastructure Investments, an entity through which it makes investments for its startup accelerator programme, according to a regulatory filing.

Voicezen provides solutions that leverage machine learning, AI, speech to text and voice technologies to offer real time analytics to help brands serve customers, a currency that Airtel expects to benefit from.

“The investment will give Airtel preferred access to Voicezen’s technologies, which can be deployed across its customer touch points in multiple languages… It will also allow Airtel to make contextual offers to customers based on real time conversations,” Airtel said.

The Gurugram based startup was founded in 2018 by Apurba Nath.

An engineer by qualification, Nath graduated from NIT Rourkela in 2001, after which he worked for a little over two years at IT services firm Cognizant, according to his LinkedIn profile. Over the years, Nath worked across multiple senior technology-based roles before starting up.

Airtel’s startup accelerator programme supports growth of early stage Indian technology startups and partners with them to build scale. Voicezen is the programme’s third investment so far.

Previous investments include Bengaluru-based software development startup Vahan, in October and Gurugram-based startup Quikmile, which focuses on building tech-enabled logistics platforms, in November.

“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 at Airtel, said.

Recent developments in the conversational AI space:

  • In April, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platform Yellow Messenger raised $20 million in a Series B funding round from Menlo Park, California headquartered venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners.
  • Same month, another conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platform, Reliance Jio-owned Haptik launched a new research and development wing, Conversation.ai, which will focus on building conversation and digital solutions backed by AI.
  • In February, cloud-based digital workflow technology provider ServiceNow acquired Passage AI, a Mountain View, California-based conversational AI platform to enhance language capabilities.

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