Niki re-defines Artificial Intelligence and the future of the chatbots.
With a rapid rise in Artifical Intelligence and chatbots (which can perform tasks ranging from that of a personal assistant, to chatting about the weather and providing flight updates), there have been talks of how chatbots have the potential to disrupt many kinds of jobs.
Companies have been quick to catch up with this trend, as exhibited by Microsoft’s Tay and Facebook’s Messenger chatbots. Indian company Niki.ai too has plans to disrupt how information and horizontal mobile commerce is presented, accessed and consumed with its single integrated AI based conversational platform.
Founded in 2015 by IIT Kharagpur graduates Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel and Shishir Modi, the AI based application has seen two rounds of funding already from investors including Ratan Tata and Ronny Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures.
Speaking about the market potential and how the company started, co-founder Sachin says “. The market possibilities of chatbots is huge. Out of more than 250 million Indians on the internet, only 20 million are transacting online. But there are roughly 150 million of on the messaging apps. Through chat, it’s easier to express what we want. It’s free form, not limited by a fixed UI, and unlike most app interfaces, it’s interactive. Hence in our pursuit to build a unified transactional interface, we realized that chat would be a great way to start. Also, deployment of chat agents limits scale of operations and is cost intensive. Thus, was born niki – a chatbot”.
Sachin also talks about how many users are unable to keep up with an increase in the number of application due to either low memory phones, slow internet connections, or both. Niki.ai aims to solve this problem by cutting the excess content out and simplifying the process through personalized suggestions.
With a current base of 3 Billion users on messaging apps globally, commerce through messaging would help them reach a much wider user base with both global and Indian messaging application users growing at a rapid rate. Niki.ai works on a channel partnership model wherein they get a commission for every order generated by the application for its vendors, who handle order fulfilment.
The application, at present, is capable of recharging phones, ordering food, and handling cab booking as well, among other tasks with plans to add utility payments and bus booking to the mix. The company was ideated in January 2015, with the creation of a Minimum Viable Product by March 2015, followed by the Beta version being ready by June 2015 and the final product ready in October 2015.
“Globally, chatbots have been talked about a lot in the recent times, with Google announcing Allo in its I/O conference. Facebook also has opened up its Messenger platform for developer to build bots on it. Similar is the case with Microsoft, Slack, Kik.” says Sachin. “We have always been building a chatbot. Not just because of our passion, but that this was naturally more scalable and imminent. As a product, this can be plugged into larger ecosystems like Messenger, Alexa, OEMs/OS or otherwise. And we think with chat we can actually build a unified transactional interface – which is our vision.” he adds.
The space currently has players such as Lookup – which connects retailers to customers on chat, Haptik – which connects brands to consumers on chat, and MagicX which also connects brands to consumers on chat but while Lookup and Haptik are manual and MagicX is semi-automated, Niki.ai is able to function fully automatically.
The company plans to venture into home services and bus booking in the near future, as previously mentioned, along with over 25 services in the pipeline for the next 3 months including grocery delivery, movie ticketing, flight booking and hotel bookings and grander plans to make an instance of Niki available in the form of a Software Development Kit for use and integration by multiple brands.
“Currently Niki resides in the play store as an App. But going forward, Niki is going to be a platform independent, plugged and used on any interface, whether Android, iOS, Messaging, Mobile OS, Wearables or otherwise” Sachin explains. “For brands, it’s much simple since we will replicate the entire transactional experience and provide them in form of a SDK”.
The Team at Niki.ai
The team is currently 21 members strong : consisting of developers, designers and growth hackers with the founders coming from various backgrounds. “Keshav comes with a Computer Science background and has worked with Amazon for 4 years building architectures at scale.
Shishir was the head of Strategic Initiatives at Indiareads and Nitin has worked with Ipsos doing Marketing Analytics for Fortune 500 firms, before co-founding niki.ai with others.” says Sachin who is no stranger to the startup ecosystem having co-founded data analytics company Innovacer before Niki.ai which was preceded with a job at Oracle as a product manager.
He believes the three most important things in a startup are : Market Opportunity and the Business Model, the Ability to Solve Consumer Problems at Scale and the Team behind the product itself.