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Airtel acquires 10% of conversational AI startup Voicezen

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I’m sorry Dave, I can’t let you file that customer complaint

Indian telecommunications company Bharti Airtel has acquired a 10 percent stake in Voicezen, a startup focused on conversational artificial intelligence.

Located in Gurgaon, southwest of New Delhi, the company sells GPU-accelerated speech-to-text and voice technologies, primarily for immediate customer service inquiries, and for tracking deeper trends - with a focus on supporting Indian languages.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

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“AI is a big focus area for Airtel, given the deep positive impact the technology can have in transforming [the] customer experience,” Airtel’s chief product officer, Adarsh Nair, said.

“Voicezen has built some promising products that are very relevant for a market like India. We look forward to partnering them in scaling these innovative 'Made in India, for India' applications.”

Voicezen's founder, Apurba Nath, admitted that AI models built in the lab often struggle when out in the real world, dealing with its endless complexities, “because either the training data is not large and relevant or the problem has little business significance," he said. "Our partnership with Airtel helps us solve these challenges.”

Airtel faces fierce competition with India’s other major telcos, which have all built their own conversational AI platforms - most notably, with Reliance Jio’s parent company, which has invested in several AI-based chatbot startups, including Reverie and Haptik.

Just last month, Vodafone Idea launched its own AI-powered digital customer service and support virtual assistant, ‘VIC.’ Based on tech built by startup Ori Serve, it currently supports English and Hindi, and aims to reduce the burden on customer services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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