India has rapidly evolved as the breeding ground for rising technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). However, to build a revolutionary solution rather than a trivial one, we should not just depend on AI and ML. At this moment, we need a “Deep Tech” solution which is essentially a mix of a variety of technologies including AI, ML, Natural language Processing, computer vision, image processing, block-chain and AR/VR.
India faces some limitations to overcome the demands of developing a “Deep tech” solution. The skills required for this task is currently not present in the majority of the technology graduates. Also, there are issues with the data quality in India because of the demographics and language diversity which further slows the momentum.
With a mission and passion for solving such issues in India, Dhiyo, a Bengaluru based startup, has developed an interface with AI and machine learning as the backbone. This platform has been the brainchild of Santhosh SS, who in 2018 founded Dhiyo which possesses a conversational AI interface. Initially, a framework was built with the help of Google Assistant just to help people belonging to the blue-collar sector in getting desired jobs.
Santhosh has immense experience in both large scale enterprises and start-ups. He completed his engineering in Computer Science in India and then went to the University of Florida to do MS in Computer Science (2001). After a few years, he also completed his MBA from the same university in 2009. He is a proven cross-functional leader and has established and managed technology, strategy and operations across geographies.
This video discussion held between Santhosh and Yagnesh Sanghrajka, Founder and CFO of 100X.VC presents you an insight about the future of Voice AI and Vernacular voice.
How Dhiyo came into existence
Santhosh was quite curious to the idea of how the job seekers in the informal or unorganized sector (92% of India’s workforce contributing to about 50 % of India’s GDP) in India are searching for jobs. He spoke to quite a number of these job-seekers, and all were of the view that it is quite complicated to understand and apply through these sites.
This created a need for a platform which is simple and easy to use for people with small income after studying the challenges of job-seekers and founded Dhiyo-ai. This platform allows job seekers to create their profile or resume merely on their smartphones. This is possible with a series of voice commands that involve conversational AI interface. Being a multilingual platform, it allows them to speak just with their native language.
How Dhiyo as a job platform is special
Some of the pain points raised by Santhosh during the conversation have been listed below:
Employees working in the unorganized sector get stuck in the same position, and hardly 1% of them move to a higher position.
The ecosystem around these people somehow make them stagnant and hinder their empowerment.
There are at least 4-5 layers of middlemen who are getting commissions out of them.
There are language barriers among people working in the informal sector.
There are many unskilled and semi-skilled people who require jobs in India.
Dhiyo understood the peculiarity of the problem and by leveraging state-of-the-art NLP and ML techniques delivered the industry’s most amazing experience of conversational AI. Dhiyo offers customer-friendly and relevant applications which seem very natural while using and prevent candidates from facing any inconvenience. This updated use of technology has enabled Dhiyo to dominate the job market and eradicated the unnecessary involvement of any middlemen.
Challenges of a Single Founder to a Startup
Santhosh is of the view that although it is hard for a single founder to start a company from scratch, then it is all about teamwork. Dhiyo is blessed with a wonderful team possessing amazing technical skills helping reach the company to new heights.
Journey with the 100X and other VC firms
For Santhosh, it has been a professionally enriching and smooth experience with 100X. He considers the people at 100X more of mentors than investors who are guiding him at every step. They showed deep faith in the idea and helped grow Dhiyo in a big way.
Business during COVID pandemic
COVID has made a massive impact on all the businesses, including startups. Dhiyo is also not isolated from this impact and there are both negatives and positives to it. According to Santhosh, these are testing times for startups. But thanks to all the mentors and advisors, Dhiyo is bracing and fighting this storm quite well. There is an apparent downturn in the revenues, but the main thing to keep in mind is that one should not give up in these drastic times and be resolute to stay afloat. He is also positive that things will return to normalcy in the next 3-6 months.
As far as the numbers are concerned, Santhosh says that the employment sector has been severely affected during COVID. The unemployment rates in India have zoomed up from 8 percent to 25 percent with close to 40 million people losing their jobs during the lockdown. He is of the view that whenever things get back to normal, people will come back to their bases post lockdown and that’s when Dhiyo as a platform will come into the picture. Dhiyo is also introducing skill training for those who wish to make transitions from one sector to another. Also, Dhiyo is keeping in mind the Prime Minister’s appeal about going local and is devising mechanisms to find jobs for people in their local areas.
Using AI as an advantage
Santhosh throws some impressive numbers and says that voice search in India has grown 270 percent, which is quite astonishing. Also, the conversational AI model is expected to grow at 31 percent for the next 5 years. This is giving Dhiyo a motivational boost as the adoption and maturing of AI technology is quite remarkable in the western world. With some tweaking to these models, Dhiyo has developed a vernacular conversational platform which is suited for the Indian population. This platform is easy to use, and there is no middleman kind of situation.
Changes in views of investors post COVID
Startup founders seeking funds will find a shift in the stance as far as the investors are concerned. The investors are now more varied and diligent towards evaluating startups. The startups need to strive harder now, and regular follow up is the key. Moreover, these are very suitable times for specific sectors such as healthcare and education and deals are reaching closure as well for most of them. Dhiyo has also been able to raise funds during these times.
Expectations from Government
Santhosh explains that the government is facing challenges from all fronts, be it COVID or border situations, deteriorating economic health. Despite these challenges, the government is doing well as far as helping startups is concerned. Government has made certain relaxations for MSMEs to avail interest-free loans for a particular duration. However, new startups still face challenges while availing of these loans. Hence, the government should provide some relaxations to these startups as well so that they can also avail such loans to survive. He says that Dhiyo is working with government agencies like NSDC (National Skill Development Centre) and other NGOs targeting the rural or blue-collar workforce. This helps in opening avenues to do business with the government.
Thoughts for budding entrepreneurs
Santhosh outlines his views for budding entrepreneurs who wish to start their companies:
This is a perfect time to research and find out the pain points which the people are facing.
Think about an idea which can make an immediate impact.
Build an MVP or prototype and start implementing it.
Develop patience and be over-optimistic and explain your idea to the investors.