Backed by Unilazer, Niki recommends the right services, and helps the user complete the transaction with its in-chat payment feature
The Niki team
Artificial Intelligence (AI), which made its entry into the mainstream last year, is the new disruptor in the technology world. All major tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter, are embracing this technology to make interactions with customers more intelligent and smarter.
According to Raj K Mitra, Assistant Vice President (Investment Publishing, Private Banking and Wealth Management) at Credit Suisse, the probability of the emergence of an intelligent system that could combine the power of computational algorithms with the wisdom and creativity of humans is much higher than the emergence of a rogue machine that will set out to exterminate the human race.
AI is hitting headlines in India, too. Various consumer Internet startups are trying to build AI-based products to outsmart rivals.
The Niki platform
Niki is one such startup that hit headlines last year. It has developed a fully automated AI-powered chat bot that will guide you, along with recommendations, to reach the right service and then goes the last mile to make that transaction for you.
“We wanted to build an AI and were looking at solving consumer problems through it. Once we understood what we wanted to build, we jumped right in to work full time on the product,” says Co-founder Shishir Modi.
“Users just have to chat with Niki asking for a recharge, cab booking, bill payments etc. It understands the user’s language in the context of products or services that he/she would like to buy, guides him/her with recommendations to find the right services, and helps complete the transaction with our in-chat payment feature,” he adds.
Niki.ai was launched in early 2015 by four IIT Kharagpur graduates — Modi, Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi and Nitin Babel.
An Android app, Niki aims to make the life of a consumer easier. “Whenever you’re unsure of the best recharge plans for your mobile number, just ask Niki for the plans specifying your requirements such as amount, data size or validity, and you’re sorted. Niki comes up with apt recommendations for you to pick from,” he adds.
The app also comes in handy when you’re caught in a remote area, looking for the nearest (or cheapest) cab around. You can just ask Niki and it comes up with a list of all cabs available. You can pick one, confirm and ride away.
Niki is also a boon to those who want to make bill payments in a jiffy. Reminders in Niki will remind the user of the monthly due date for bill payments.
According to Modi, the app brings in value for smartphone users by eliminating the need for various apps to execute various tasks. Niki offers multiple options on a single platform and it can even work on low-memory phones and erratic 2G Internet. This makes it easier for people in rural areas to benefit from technology for their day-to-day ordering needs.
Niki claims to have garnered around 8,000 users till date. While it is free for end consumers, the company is working on a channel partnership with businesses to generate revenues.
A few months ago, another startup named Arya.AI also came into the AI space. Modi, however, sees no immediate threat.
“While other AI players like Arya.ai are focussed on solving data problems for professionals and helping them ease their decision making, we are focussed on commerce — simplifying the ordering experience for new-generation shoppers. We’re now working on expanding our portfolio of services in the months to come,” Modi explains.
Niki plans to bring in bus booking, movie ticketing, food ordering, home services and online shopping to the platform in the near future.
Last year, Niki raised seed funding from Unilazer Ventures backed by Ronnie Screwvala to enhance the technological infrastructure and scale the team.
“We are now planning to release SDKs for businesses to integrate a chat interface within their app which can give their users an alternate interface for placing orders. This brings an added advantage as businesses will have an interface which will work seamlessly over 2G networks making the app more scalable to a larger user base without having to worry about Internet quality,” Modi signs off.
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