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Artificial Intelligence conversation over Tea

Saturday, May 11th saw around 20 intellectuals — entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, mentors, academicians — gather over a cup of tea in Gurgaon to have a friendly conversation around Artificial Intelligence. While we have seen a good amount of AI discussion among tech folks, we have always felt that a dialogue between a diverse group is important for effective knowledge sharing to happen, which indirectly leads to better products and solutions and an evolved ecosystem. It was very enlightening to see a honest, free flow, open exchange of thoughts and no selling :-). We are extremely thankful to all attendees, least of all the folks who came all the way from Bangalore, Greater Noida and even Meerut.

Without getting into the specifics of the conversations, I thought it worthwhile to share the Top 10 macro level takeaways

(a) Extremely High Level of Curiosity and Passion in the Ecosystem, not only restricted to the Tech Founders. Curiosity is the best teacher and it was very visible in the room.

(b) People don’t want India to be left behind in AI race. It was also heartening to see most folks not waiting for someone else (aka Government) to do something but are willing to make the effort in their own way — from starting an AI startup to setting up an AI team within their organization to teaching and educating others to investing and mentoring.

(c) Endless Possibilities but lack of Clarity — CEOs of traditional businesses feel their firm is generating humongous data but they don’t know how to make sense of it. Quite often even taking the build vs partner decision is not clear.

(d) Use Cases Matter — At the end of the day, AI & other technologies are a means to an end. They have to add value to an end user, whether a consumer or enterprise. Use Cases Matter — Critical for tech founders to think of tangible value added use cases and not just fall in love with technology.

(e) User Experience is Paramount — Traditional technologies have forced people to learn how to interact with Machines. One key value add of AI technologies (in select cases) is the machines adopting to a user and we not being forced to change our interaction modes. Voice driven assistants, One line request for actions on messaging platforms and email for corporate travel bookings are prime example of same.

(f) Data Privacy and Security — becoming increasingly critical in Indian environment as well. I remember when we started my Cybersecurity AI venture few years ago, colloquial feedback from friends and business professionals was that India doesn’t need to worry about Data Privacy and Security. The fact that trend has changed and Indians have started to increasingly think of Data Privacy & Security outside of compliance arena is something the AI startups should keep in mind.

(g) Tools for Data Scientists will evolve — When massive software development took center stage 20 years ago with 1–2 years release cycles, Program Management tools became critical. As software industry gradually shifted to Agile Development, tools evolved for Developers and Testers to enable multi location coding and transfer of knowledge within the team. On the same pattern, as Data Science teams become bigger, new tools & processes would evolve to drive higher productivity and outputs from their teams.

(h) Business Models have to evolve — Any technological evolution is incomplete without appropriate changes in the Business Model. Founders of AI startups and their mentors should think of new ways of monetizing and not restrict their thinking to traditional ways.

(j) War of Talent — It is indeed a war of talent and re-skilling. There is a strong need not only for Data Science folks but also for Developers to build new age solutions around AI, Marketers to explain the tech story in an easy to understand way, Finance folks who understand tech and are open to discussing new business models, HR folks who understand what it may take to keep the team together & motivated. It is also a war for Business Leaders who are willing to stick their neck out and coach & lead the young, enthusiastic teams.

Any journey becomes enjoyable when you have friends and family as co-travelers. We look forward to continuing on the AI journey with our cohort of entrepreneurs, investors, customers and well wishers.

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