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Ratan Tata makes his 1st investment in artificial intelligence – backs

Source | YourStory : By HARSHITH MALLYA, an artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbot, announced on Thursday that Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, had invested in the startup along with Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer, which did a follow up round to their first seed investment. Niki will utilise the funds raised to increase its merchant base and also to strengthen its technological capabilities.

Story so far was founded in April 2015 by four IIT-Kharagpur alumni – Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel and Shishir Modi – and has now grown to a 21 member team. Niki was officially launched during YourStory’s TechSparks 2015, and is a Tech30 company. 

yourstory-Niki team

The startup leverages natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to converse with customers over a simple chat interface, and places orders on their behalf in seconds with partner businesses. The founding team initially spent a couple of months in Udaipur before moving to Bengaluru in July 2015. The product had initially been in beta for seven months, and the team has focussed on building and enhancing the product, while working closely with a limited set of beta users. At that stage users could book and pay for cabs and perform mobile recharges through the chat interface.

Fast forward to present, Niki currently offers bill payments, cab booking, recharge, food ordering, home services, cricket scores with some other services in the pipeline such as laundry and bus bookings. As a product, the startup has gone beyond search having built a dialogue manager, which remembers the context of the conversation to engage in a two way dialogue with the users and helps them get things done.

Niki works on a channel partnership model and generates revenue for every order processed on its platform. It is also working with brands to provide them chatbots for their use cases and applications. Shishir said,

We want Niki to be a platform independent, plugged and used on any interface, whether Android, iOS, Messaging, Mobile OS, wearables or otherwise. Hence an instance of Niki will be available (in form of SDK) for any brand to integrate and use.

Sachin noted that out of all their services recharges see the most transactions, utilities the highest GMV, while live cricket updates sees the most activity and interest from users.  The startup had earlier raised a seed round from Unilazer Ventures, who participated again in this round. Ronnie Screwvala, founder of Unilazer said, “Chatbots have now picked up globally and Niki has been at the forefront of this innovation, building the technology for over a year now. We continue to support the team as we believe in their vision to simplify transactions for consumers.”

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