Abhinav and Raghav Aggarwal dropped out of their MBAs at ISB Hyderabad and IIM Ahmedabad to build an AI platform for banks, retailers and e-commerce customers. The two self-taught coders want to build the de-facto plug-and-play AI platform that is sector-agnostic.
The Aggarwal brothers, Abhinav and Raghav, finance professionals by education (Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst, respectively), shared an interest in coding and are self-taught coders. This interest nudged them to consider starting a technology venture, but they couldn’t easily decide on a specific idea.
They had three options: start a traditional technology-enabled ITeS venture; build a SaaS company; or, work with core technology to develop products. Finally, they decided on the third. “We don’t see too many hard-core tech companies built out of India,” says Abhinav Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO. Winning a hackathon at one of America’s leading Conferences (TechCrunch Disrupt, New York Hackathon 2012), was all the encouragement they needed. “This gave us the confidence that we were ahead in terms of technological capability and propelled us towards AI as the space we want to work in,” states he.
Interestingly, the founder brothers decided to drop out of the post-graduation courses they were pursuing at the time (Abhinav was enrolled in the MBA program at ISB Hyderabad, and Raghav was at IIM Ahmedabad) to startup Fluid.ai.
Fluid AI develops solutions based on artificial intelligence (AI) across industries such as banking, insurance, ecommerce, retail and manufacturing. The AI engine developed by the company, which can be connected to any application or database, takes the data as input and makes predictions, thereby helping in decision making.
“While it is tough to judge the market size of AI-based applications, we discover new use cases daily,” admits Abhinav. The company has made good progress since its incorporation in 2012, with a team size of 50 and more than 100 customers in major economies such as Europe, UK, US, Middle East and India. The company works with prominent global leaders such as Vodafone, Toyota, Deloitte, Reliance Industries, RBL Bank, Axis Bank, Emirates NBD and also the Government of Mauritius, to name a few. It has been listed by Forrester in its latest AI report as the top vendor for deep learning and the company won IBM’s Smart Camp 2016 India, a contest it organizes for frontier technology companies around the world.
When we started the company, we were figuring out a lot of things. Things we thought would be a problem, turned out to be different, once we got to deploy the solution in the real world. We went in with one approach and came out with a different approach
Application across sectors
The company builds genetically evolving algorithms that can learn in real time from earlier decisions made to predict future behaviour and facilitate better outcomes.
One of the services it offers is AI-based experience. Voice and gesture recognition capabilities make it useful in being commissioned for customer service as it can recognise regular customers when they walk into the office and start interacting with them like any human service executive. It can detect which way the head is turned and show virtually what lies in that direction. This solution has many takers among leading brands to set up their service branch. In some sense, Fluid AI works at the intersection of three emerging fields – virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
Two, the company works on the data side and helps in predicting what kind of products to cross-sell to a customer from his/her previous transaction and related details. “This need not just be with respect to a product. It can also be, when to reach out to a customer, what medium to use and so on,” says Abhinav.
Three, the company works on the risk side, wherein its algorithm predicts credit default, spending pattern fraud detection and so on. Finally, it also helps operations through chatbots, automation via AI and setting credit limits.
The company is now gearing up to build scale rapidly, by hiring a cross-border workforce. “The challenge is to ensure that we are able to manage the scale well and transition from an India-focussed company to a global company,” states Abhinav. Not just this, it also has to make sure that people across the organisation share the same culture, globally.
Fluid AI worked with a leading bank to cross-sell its products to existing customers. The tool predicted which product out of its 96 to cross sell, what communication medium to use and at what time of the day. At the end of it, the bank experienced 95 per cent accuracy across 3.77 lakh predictions. Conversion improved by a factor of six as against traditional methods, explains Abhinav. This lead to a significant rise in sales for the bank, increased product penetration for each customer and lowered marketing costs, without spamming the customer.
Stepping ahead with full force
Self-funded, the brothers coded from home and got a marquee customer. From there on, they were able to grow their business through references. “While we got a lot of offers for funding, we realised that growing the company this way from its own profits forces us to work on the right problems. We will kill any division that is not working well. This model forced us to build value for the customer quickly so that we can extend it back in terms of profit and revenue. Our approach allowed us to be more cautious,” states Abhinav. However, he does not rule out raising funds to fuel its global expansion.
The company has doubled its revenue this year and aims to maintain this growth rate, says Abhinav, without revealing specific financial details. It is also exploring unsaturated markets globally and plans to become a default go-to AI focussed enterprise for certain sectors – like banks, retail and ecommerce. “While several big banks are deploying our solution, our AI platform is sector-agnostic. The goal is to build this into becoming the de-facto AI platform for any enterprise; Of course, it is still early days but we’re very excited,” says Abhinav as he concludes this interview.
Snapshot: Fluid AI
Founders: Abhinav and Raghav Aggarwal
Business Profile: Fluid AI believes that artificial intelligence (AI) can be used across industries and use cases. Its solutions are utilised by companies across sectors such as banking, insurance, ecommerce, retail and manufacturing. The AI engine takes the data from the application or database it is connected to as input, makes predictions and gives decision to a variety of systems for immediate action.
What is Fluid.AI?
- A plug and play artificial intelligence platform
- Connects to data sources within and outside
- Decision taken based on the previous data
- An algorithm that learns from past decisions
USE CASES OF FLUID.AI
Marketing and sales: AI-driven sales, lead scoring, customer attrition
Operations: Chatbox for ops, ATM management, automation through AI, face recognition, setting credit limits, decision to setup branch, quicker delivery of product
Risk: Predicting credit default, spending pattern fraud detection, loan risk assessment, improving traditional credit risk scoring
Customer experience powered by gesture: 24/7 digital banking, smart AI screens