(Left to right) Nitin Babel, Sachin Jaiswal, Shishir Modi and Keshav Prawasi
Image: Amit Verma
Many consider online shopping to be therapeutic. Imagine a personal assistant making it a seamless experience. It was with this thought that IIT-Kharagpur friends Sachin Jaiswal, 30, Keshav Prawasi, 28, Nitin Babel, 28, and Shishir Modi, 29, launched Niki.ai in April 2015.
Niki is a chatbot that acts like a virtual shopkeeper, assisting customers with the help they need to buy a product or a service, through conversational AI. It can help with booking hotels, cabs, movie tickets, ordering food and even paying bills. “There are about 100 million Indians who use the internet on their smartphones, but only 10 percent do online transactions. With Niki, customers do not need to download individual applications such as Uber, Ola, BookMyShow, redBus, etc. Niki has these apps embedded and takes care of everything, from the booking to the payment transactions,” says Jaiswal.
As of today, Niki has partnered with 55 brands and has 30 lakh customers; the founders claim it has done transactions worth over ₹180 crore.
Niki works on algorithms that understand human language and breaks it down for the machine to comprehend. Describing some initial hiccups, Jaiswal says, “There is a lot of data available, so training the bot to comprehend all of that was a challenge. We improved gradually. Also, Niki could only understand English, but upon realising the dearth of English-speaking audience in India, the team decided to add support for Hindi as well. In another six to 10 months, we hope to add support for another ten languages.”
Niki earns from every transaction made via the application. It is also working with other brands to provide them with chatbots. Its gross revenue for FY18 was ₹50 crore.