In a country as diverse as ours, building technology for the masses is not a simple task. With almost 90% of India's population being non-English speaking, tech companies today need to overcome language and interface barriers to make their products relevant to vernacular users who have recently come online. The recent internet and smartphone penetration across the non-metro cities and rural India have caused a shift in the online consumption patterns, which has shifted from English to native Indian languages.
A KPMG report predicts that by 2021, regional language users will comprise 75% of India's internet users. However, today's tech-enabled interfaces are understood by only one out of ten Indians using the internet. To fill this gap, Niki.ai, a pioneer in the conversational commerce space, is adding multilingual chat and voice support for the non-English speaking users of Bharat. The app has already enabled text and speech recognition in Hindi, with support in Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Marathi set to go live by the end of this year.
According to entrepreneur and UpGrad Co-Founder Ronnie Screwvala, the growth story of India’s digitization has shifted from the metros to Bharat, and technology companies today are sitting on a goldmine — with a potential of billions of dollars of untapped Bharat market. In a recent article published in Fortune India, the investor writes, "Home-grown startups such as Niki.ai are harnessing AI to build localized and voice-first interfaces that are easy to use for even first-time internet users. Niki.ai’s conversational commerce interface is being widely adopted by players in the BFSI sector. The start-up has already built for Hindi speaking consumers and will extend voice & vernacular support to multiple Indian languages, thus leading Bharat towards complete digitization"
Niki.ai has partnered with vendors to facilitate bus and taxi bookings, hotel reservations, mobile, and landline bill payments, home services and utility payments such as power and gas, - all within a single chat window. "With our Artificial Intelligence-based proprietary technology, we are building a product for Bharat. We’ve built a virtual friend, Niki, that Indians can speak to in their mother tongue to carry out online payments and transactions. We have removed all interfaces, keeping everything similar to the offline world, where every service and product is availed through the medium that we’re most familiar with - conversations," says Sachin Jaiswal, CEO & Co-founder, Niki.ai.
The AI startup has partnered with fintech startups such as Earlysalary, ePaylater, and Lazypay, to enable a one-click checkout process during online transactions, thereby simplifying the payment process for first-time internet users. The voice support in multiple Indian languages will soon be available on Niki app, and will further simplify the user interface by making it as easy as talking to a friend in one's own language. The SDK (Software Development Kit) of Niki.ai has been adopted by players in the BFSI sector such as HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Karbonn smartphones and more.
While India ranks high on the list of app-friendly countries, the most popular apps in India are developed for the urban population. Even as the smartphone penetration in our country stands at a staggering 300M, more than 270M people still depend on offline transactions for simple tasks such as prepaid mobile recharge. With the upcoming text and voice support in at least seven different Indian languages, Niki.ai aims to bring Bharat's next billion users online.