EU a step closer to AI Act; IBM acquires Agyla in France; Zoho sees 65 percent growth with larger customers

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European lawmakers took a significant step towards regulating artificial intelligence (AI) with the advancement of new draft legislation, Reuters reports. The legislation aims to ensure that AI serves people, society, and the environment, emphasising the importance of protecting fundamental rights. 

 

The European Union's AI Act is expected to become the world's first comprehensive legislation governing AI, encompassing regulations on facial recognition, biometric surveillance, and other AI applications. 

 

The bill, after two years of negotiations, is now set to proceed to the next stage of the process, involving the finalisation of its details with the European Commission and individual member states. The proposals classify AI tools based on perceived risk levels and impose different obligations on governments and companies accordingly. 

 

The negotiations on the AI Act led to a compromise between conservative and left-wing Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The vote resulted in the banning of facial recognition in public spaces, predictive policing tools, and the introduction of transparency measures for generative AI applications, including OpenAI's ChatGPT. 

 

Following a plenary vote in June, the bill will be subject to "trilogue" talks involving representatives of the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission. The final terms are expected to be agreed upon before a grace period of approximately two years for compliance with the regulations. 

 

Zoho, India's biggest software products company, yesterday announced investments to step up what it calls its upmarket growth in India – meaning sales to the larger companies rather than the SMB segment. 

 

The SaaS company saw a 65 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in annual recurring revenue (ARR) within the mid-market and enterprise segment over the past three years, accounting for more than 50 percent of its ARR in India, Chennai-based Zoho said in a press release. 

 

Zoho made a similar announcement in early May, and the company didn't give any financial details of its investments. 

 

Globally, this segment now represents one-third of Zoho's entire business, comprising 90 million users from 600,000 business customers. 

 

Zoho's upmarket growth in India is led by sectors such as banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), manufacturing, retail, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceuticals, and IT. The company has collaborated with government departments and public sector units (PSUs) to support their digitalisation efforts and contribute to the modernisation of the public sector. 

 

To cater to the specific needs of large organisations and enhance customer experience, Zoho has expanded its presence in India by hiring customer-facing teams and opening offices in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad. 

 

The company aims to become the most seamless enterprise software vendor in the market by focusing on extensibility, usability, packaging, and go-to-market solutions. 

 

Separately, Praval Singh, vice president of marketing and customer experience, said that the company was responding to the current global economic slowdown with a freeze on hiring and curtailing marketing expenditure, NDTV reports. 

 

IBM yesterday said it had acquired Agyla SAS, a prominent cloud professional services provider based in France. This move aims to enhance IBM Consulting's localised cloud expertise for French clients and expand its hybrid multi-cloud services portfolio, the company said in a press release. 

 

With this acquisition, IBM further strengthens its hybrid cloud and AI strategy in the region. This marks IBM's sixth acquisition of 2023, as the company continues to bolster its hybrid cloud and AI capabilities. 

 

Agyla SAS, established in 2013, specialises in delivering cloud platform engineering services, assisting clients in building essential hybrid cloud infrastructure and applications. 

 

The company serves renowned brands in France across various sectors, including industry, retail, banking, and public services. Agyla SAS brings extensive expertise in hybrid cloud ecosystem partners such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, with over 100 certifications. 

 

The financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed, and the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory clearances. 

 

Uber has invested $20 million in Mumbai-based fleet management company Everest Fleet to support its transition to electric vehicles (EVs), TechCrunch reports. Everest Fleet manages over 10,000 vehicles operating on ride-sharing platforms Uber and Ola in India. 

 

The funds will be used to accelerate the adoption of EVs, with a target of having 10,000 EVs in its fleet by 2026. Uber sees fleets like Everest as crucial in overcoming challenges related to charging infrastructure and the affordability of EVs for Indian drivers. 

 

The investment coincides with the launch of Uber Green in India, allowing riders to choose hybrid or electric vehicles for their trips. Uber aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and plans to bring over 1 million EVs to its platform in India and South Asia. In February, Uber signed a deal with Tata Motors to introduce 25,000 EVs into its fleet, partnering with companies like Everest, Lithium, and Moove. Everest intends to utilise the investment to expand its operations across major Indian cities and potentially internationally.

 

Summary

European lawmakers took a significant step towards regulating artificial intelligence (AI) with the advancement of new draft legislation, Reuters reports. The legislation aims to ensure that AI serves people, society, and the environment, emphasising the importance of protecting fundamental rights. Also in this report, Zoho said it's making investments across its portfolio of products to accelerate the strong growth it is seeing with larger customers, who now account for a third of the Chennai software company's overall business