One of India telecom giants Bharti Airtel launched its Startup Accelerator Program in 2019 to support growth of early stage Indian tech startups. With the advent of its Startup Accelerator Program, Airtel aims to support the creation of a vibrant startup ecosystem that contributes to Digital India. Airtel believes that new technologies like AI and Machine learning could be leveraged to aid the growth of startups.
The startup accelerator program will help early stage startups to get access to Airtels online and offline distribution network, deep market understanding and ecosystem of global strategic partners. With the Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) becoming the next big thing in technology, the program has also developed strong in-house capacities for using these new age technologies.
Moreover, the startups will also get access to advisory services form Airtel executive team. Chief product officer of Bharti Airtel, Adarsh Nair on the launch of the accelerator program share that early startups in India have exciting ideas but face multiple challenges in scaling up. He added, “With Airtels scale and digital capabilities around distribution and payments, we have the potential to drive the accelerated growth of emerging startups that are solving hard problems”.
A brief about Bharti Airtel
Airtel is a global telecommunications company with operations in 18 countries across South Asia and Africa. The company ranks amongst the top three mobile operators globally and its mobile network covers a population of over two billion people. Airtel is India largest integrated telecom provider and the second largest mobile operator in Africa. At the end June 2020, Airtel had approx. 420 million customers across its operators.
The portfolio of airtel includes high speed 4G/4.5G mobile broadband, Airtel Xstream Fiber that promises speeds up to 1Gbps and converged digital TV solutions through the Airtel Xstream 4K hybrid box. It also has digital payments through Airtel Payments Bank as well as an integrated suite of services across connectivity, collaborations, cloud and security that serves over one million businesses.
Airtel OTT services that includes Airtel Thanks app which is made for self-care, Airtel Xstream app for video, Wynk Music for entertainment and Airtel blue jeans for video conferencing. In addition, Airtel has forged strategic partnerships with hundreds of companies across the world to enable the Airtel platform to deliver an array of consumer and enterprise services.
How does the Startup Accelerator Program help startups?
Airtel Startup Accelerator Program allows startups to leverage Airtels robust ecosystem including its core strengths in data, networks, payments and distribution. The program includes an access to a vast range of online and offline distribution network that touches 300 plus customers, deep market understanding and platform of global strategic partners.
Further, startups also get access to advisory services from Airtel’s executive team. In India, Airtel serves customers across mobile, landline and DTH verticals. The program was introduced on 25th October 2019, Airtel will help early startups with its online and offline distribution network, deep market understanding and global strategic partner ecosystem.
The company said in a statement, “With its Startup Accelerator Program, Airtel aims to support the creation of a vibrant startup ecosystem that contributes to Digital India”. Airtel has also developed in-house capabilities around machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), which could be leveraged to aid the growth of startups. The statement added that the startups will also get access to advisory services from Airtel's executive team.
Some of Startups under the Accelerator program
Vahan is a Bengaluru based tech startup and the first company to come under this program. The telecom has brought 8.8% stakes of the tech startup and will partner with them to achieve their visions of enabling jobs for the next billion internet users with the help of AI based technology. The company was founded in 2016 and is backed by YCombination and Khosla Ventures.
The company is focused on finding blue collar jobs for millions of young Indians in Delivery, Driving, Retail, BFSI, BPO and Hospitality sectors with companies such as Zomato, Swiggy and Dunzo as clients. Adarsh Nair, Chief Product Officer of Bharti Airtel said that, “Early stage startups in India face multiple challenges in scaling up. With this program we have the potential to drive accelerated growth of emerging startups that are solving hard problems”.
Madhav Krishna, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Vahan, in a statement said, “Most blue-collar job seekers are unaware of the opportunities that exist in the market, especially new-age on-demand jobs. Airtel’s distribution channels will help us reach the depths of the country and in turn, help them take control of their economic destiny.” Vahan leverages advanced Artificial Intelligence to match job seekers with employers inside messaging apps such as Whatsapp.
Waybeo is a Trivandrum headquartered startup which focuses on deep AI based analytics for cloud telephony, is the fifth to join the fast growing Airtel Startup Accelerator Program, which helps promises startups unlock their potential. Airtel has chosen Waybeo to be a part of the program as it is part of its strategy to scale up its cloud offerings. As per IDC, the public cloud services market in India is likely to reach US$7.1 billion by 2024.
Waybeo has managed to build a cutting edge analytics tools for the enterprises cloud telephony segment. Under the Airtel Stratup Accelerator program, Waybeo solutions will get larger distribution reach while giving Airtel access to waybeo proven as well as emerging technologies. Airtel serves over 2,500 large enterprises and more than a million emerging businesses with an integrated product portfolio, including Airtel cloud, a multi cloud product and solutions business.
Adarsh Nair, Chief Product Officer, Airtel said: “Cloud technologies are transforming the way businesses serve and delight their customers. We are thrilled to onboard Waybeo to our Startup Accelerator program and provide them a platform to scale up their technologies as part of Airtel’s world-class cloud services ecosystem.”
The other company that came under the program was Voicezen, which is a Gurgaon based startup that works on developing advanced solutions that leverage machine learning, AI, speech to text and voice technologies to offer real time analytics to help brands serve customers better. The global conversational AI market size is expected to grow from USD 4.2 billion in 2019 to USD 15.7 billion by 2024. The megatrend will be driven by surging demand for AI powered customer support services and Omni channel deployment.
Increased customer engagement through social media platforms and integration of advanced AI capabilities will offer massive opportunity. The investment will give Airtel preferred access to Voicezen’s technologies, which can be deployed across its customer touch points in multiple languages. These intelligent solutions will offer real time analytics and insights to make Airtel’s conversations with its customers more engaging and frictionless and enable faster resolution.
It will also allow Airtel to make contextual offers to customers based on real time conversations. Voicezen is the third startup to become a part of the Airtel startup accelerator program. By becoming a part of this program, Voicezen will get the opportunity to deploy its technologies on a massive scale and work closely with Airtel on developing India first platforms of the future. Voicezen helps brands deliver a better customer experience in Indian language using Conversational AI.
Apurba Nath was the founder Voicezen said that, “Having worked on AI solutions in the past, we knew what works well in a lab most often doesn’t work in the real world, because either the training data is not large and relevant or the problem has little business significance. Our partnership with Airtel helps us solve these challenges. With this strategic investment, we will work even more closely with them to continuously improve our AI models and build out an enterprise grade battle hardened product that will make customer interactions more efficient, especially in this post Covid world where business operations are facing large disruptions.”
Spectacom Global Pvt. Ltd
Airtel has also picked stake in Spectacom Global Pvt. Ltd which is a fitness focused startup, through its Airtel startup Accelerator Program. Airtel will work with the startup to increase the adoption of its services by leveraging its digital platforms, including Xstream and Wynk Music. Adarsh Nair said that, “This also fits into Airtel strong focus on connecting with the youth and providing them digital platforms to fulfill their aspirations”.
The Gurugram based Spectacom, set up by Adnan Adeeb and Zeba Zaidi, says it create digital content that allows consumers across geographies and languages to access health and fitness training initiatives and programs. The firm will also work to creating and promoting product lines such as training and nutrition videos along with live sporting events.