AI is all set to reshape lives over the coming decades and promises a strategic advantage to early adopters. India with the world’s largest community of developers, a large start-up ecosystem, and a strong scientific and engineering culture has a competitive advantage over its peer nations when it comes to AI-driven development. With a bottom-up and inclusive approach, India is all set to reap the benefits that AI has to offer. A market that is expected to touch $7.8 billion by 2025 and which has the potential to make up 15% of India’s current gross value in 2035 or US$ 957 Billion, artificial intelligence is gradually finding its way across industries in India - IT/ITES, fintech, transportation, manufacturing, retail services, healthcare, education, agriculture, law and order and more.

At a recent panel discussion conducted by GTX on How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Our World and Will it Define India’s Future?, several experts and thought leaders from the industry came together to explore India’s future in AI. Achyuta Ghosh, Research Head, NASSCOM, and one of the esteemed panelists, opined that India with its large talent pool, large adjacent talent pool, and support from all stakeholders at the national, state, and organizational levels is moving towards becoming the AI hub of the world. India has a rapidly developing AI ecosystem. Approximately 1500 startups (companies existing for 5 years or less) are working in the AI space. If we broaden the definition, approx 4000 to 5000 companies are working in the AI domain. India with its leading position in global IT services is already in an advantageous position. AI, ML and analytics are the fastest growing areas for service providers too in terms of client businesses. The demand for establishing big data and analytics COA is rising and is second only to the US. With all these developments, India is on its path to emerging as a global player in AI.

Innovating start-ups 

The last five years have seen a significant rise of artificial intelligence (AI)-focused innovation in India, with over 4,000 AI patents being filed during the period, six times higher than the figure for 2011-2015, reveals a NASSCOM study. India was ranked eighth in the top 10 countries by AI patent families on a global level.

The AI start-up ecosystem in India has included a few truly innovative experiments. Some notable ones in the space include GreyOrange, which designs and develops warehouse automation and technology solutions and offers products like Butler, a fleet of mobile robots for moving materials in the warehouse more efficiently, Sorter, a fully automated sortation system to sort and divert outbound packets and GreyMatter, a software platform for end-to-end intelligent order fulfillment. NetraDyne is a machine deep learning company that focuses on computer vision and its applications in automotive and unmanned aerial systems navigation and collision avoidance. Bengaluru-based start-up CropIn uses AI to maximize per-acre value in agriculture. With its ‘smartfarm’ solution it is possible to geo-tag plots of farm-land to find the actual plot area. It also helps in remote sensing and weather advisory and scheduling and monitoring farm activities for complete traceability.

AI use cases in the corporate world

At the panel discussion conducted by GTX, experts from the industry shared how AI is playing a pivotal role in their organizations. Shisheer Kotha, Director, Smart Manufacturing and AI at Micron Technology, shared that one of the many areas where AI is finding a use case at Micron is in the manufacturing of semiconductor chips. They are working on an AI algorithm for pattern recognition of wafers to identify where the yield is going to be impacted and how to prevent it much earlier. Sanjay Krishnaswami, VP and Head of Engineering at [24] revealed that AI is finding its use case in building customer experience software. Through Natural Language Processing (NLP), conversational AI, and computer vision, they are trying to improve customer experiences when seeking support. Sony Research India’s Dr. Angshuman Ghosh, Head of Data Science, shared that at Sony, AI is being used to improve content discovery by customers through personalization and recommendations. CRISIL’s  Ankush Gadi, Director – Data Management & Analytics, shared that AI is being used to analyze unstructured data and news. Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), AI is being used to provide sentiments to news articles in the media. Rajeev Shorey CEO, University of Queensland - IIT Delhi Academy of Research (UQIDAR), shared that research is being done to use AI to provide end to end visibility and improve efficiency, productivity & performance of assembly boards, printed circuit boards (PCBs) that are used in ATMs and in currency segregation machines used in banks.
AI innovation for social good

From preventing blindness to improving road safety to forecasting floods, AI is being used across sectors for various social projects. 

Sankara Eye Foundation India, a non-profit that aims to eliminate preventable and curable blindness, has collaborated with Singapore-based Leben Care to deploy a cloud-based AI software platform—Netra.AI. It can help identify the retinal condition in a short time with the accuracy level of human doctors, using deep learning. It can tell a healthy retina from an unhealthy one. Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA) has developed an AI-based mobile app to enable the screening of a large number of people for cataracts. By addressing the resource constraint in cataract detection, this aims to eradicate preventive blindness in the state.

Researchers from IIT Kharagpur have developed an AI-based prediction model for detecting Arsenic pollution in drinking water. By using AI for geoscience, the study provides information for the location of safe groundwater, which is the primary source of potable water for most of India.

The Andhra Pradesh Transmission Corporation (APTransco), for the first time in India, released the day-ahead electricity forecasting model using AI and ML to forecast the next day's electricity consumption, including a day-ahead electricity demand for every 15 minutes. The development will enable the AP State Load Dispatch Centre (SLDC) officials to take decisions on electricity demand and supply, grid management, and minimize power purchase costs. 

The deep learning analytics solution implemented in the Chittoor district helps local farmers remotely monitor the crops, increase the crop’s nutritional value, and to reduce water consumption by up to 40%. The solutions include edge compute HPE Edgeline EL300, onsite IoT modules, drone imaging and analysis, a user interface, and a dashboard for monitoring and reporting of various on-ground parameters and activities at the fields.

IBM has partnered with the Ministry of Education and NITI Aayog on an online initiative for higher education. Aligned with the Skill India mission to provide last-mile connectivity for quality higher education, sâmShiksha, an AI-driven, personalized learning platform, is being designed for a holistic learning experience.

The Government of India, through a unique partnership with industry and academia, has launched Project iRASTE to reimagine road safety in India using the predictive power of AI. 

AI4Bharat, an AI startup in partnership with Microsoft, is building AI models for recognizing Indian sign languages, creating one of the largest datasets on it. This project has the potential to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce. The government of India's Saathi chatbot and Punjab government’s COVA app helped citizens with critical COVID care information. 

Investments, IPOs, and mergers in AI and analytics startups 

There has been a lot of momentum around AI and analytics startups, especially among investors, venture capitalists, and private equity firms. Many AI & analytics companies are also taking the IPO route for capital. Mergers and acquisitions in the space are also seeing an upward trend.

Fractal Analytics joined the unicorn club after raising $360 million in funding. Last year, Sigma Computing raised $300 million in funding. LatentView Analytics took the IPO route and was valued at INR 600 crores. Meanwhile, Course5 Intelligence, a data analytics and insights company, has filed preliminary documents with SEBI to raise INR 600 crore via IPO. HCL Technologies acquired data engineering firm Starschema. Last year, edtech startup Masai School acquired Delhi-based Prepleaf, an end-to-end placement preparation company that focuses on data analytics, for $1 million.

Skilling up 

India’s workforce holds the highest average share of AI skills represented among its top 50 skills than any other country in the world—roughly 2.6 times the global average. India also ranks sixth on Stanford’s Global AI Vibrancy ranking. Having secured the top spot in the 'Inclusion' parameters, India has also proved its emphasis on gender diversity in India's AI ecosystem.

As per a survey done by Analytics India Magazine in October 2021, there are close to 109000 Artificial Intelligence personnel working in India across enterprises and sectors but the demand is far more than the supply. 

Finding the right talent in AI was also identified as one of the key challenges by the experts of the panel discussion conducted by GTX. As per Sanjay Krishnaswami, VP and Head of Engineering at [24], AI is as good as the data because we have to train the models and the machines. Finding people with the right expertise, not necessarily data scientists but subject matter experts, to clean and label the data is critical. Rajeev Shorey, the CEO, University of Queensland - IIT Delhi Academy of Research (UQIDAR), was also of the opinion that the human element is critical when it comes to AI development in India. We are clear about the sources of data and have mechanisms in place for validation and ensuring that the data is not obsolete but adding the right human skills to the mix remains a daunting challenge. 
BRIDGEi2i Analytics Solutions’ CEO and Co-founder, Prithvijit Roy, opines that India has an advantage of the raw supply of talent which is huge - people coming out of engineering colleges and others with masters in quantitative disciplines. The key is to bring in people with the right base skills and aptitude and have an in-house mechanism to train them.

In order to promote AI-based learning, the Government of India has taken several initiatives through organizations like MeitY, NASSCOM, and DRDO. The Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) has also been established for AI-related research and development.

AI will also be a part of the Indian school curriculum as per the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. IBM is also working with several state governments and educational institutes to ensure AI is part of the curriculum to impart AI skills at an early age. 

Prospects for returning Techies

As per the panelists of the discussion on AI conducted by GTX, almost every Fortune 500 company is working in India as their global AI hub or have providers based out of India. India is emerging as the preferred location for AI-related work. And with India’s seriousness in establishing itself as a data and AI center for the world, opportunities are going to be endless. 

Shisheer Kotha, Director, Smart Manufacturing and AI at Micron Technology, who himself moved back to India from the US shared at the panel discussion that India has changed drastically in the last 15-20 years. It no longer serves just an operation center but provides end-to-end solutions - from design to development to research to partnerships. With the quality of life and infrastructure improving manifolds, more and more leaders settled abroad would make their move back home. 

As both enterprises and startups look forward to ramping up their AI capabilities and with capital flowing in, the need for a skilled workforce who can steer them in the right direction will only see an upswing. The expertise that this pool of specialized talent can bring will add value that would not only impact millions but billions of lives.

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