Indian telco Reliance Jio has begun scouting for artificial intelligence (AI) expertise as it works on improving services and boosting efficiency.
The operator, which remains India's fastest growing after its launch of mobile services in late 2016, is reportedly planning to base an AI team in Bengaluru or Hyderabad.
The AI initiative, it seems, is being led by Akash Ambani, the son of Mukesh Ambani, who controls Reliance Jio parent company Reliance Industries. Besides taking more interest in AI, and the sub-category of machine learning, RJio is also believed to be exploring blockchain technology. Having acquired about 200 million customers since its service launch, RJio is evidently looking to new and upcoming technologies for the next phase of growth.
Last month, the company also launched JioInteract, an AI-based platform for movie promotions, brand engagement and other video activities. JioInteract is able to respond to customer questions and includes an auto-learning feature so that it can improve with use. It will also help in creating applications like virtual showrooms and with product demonstrations.
RJio is also increasing its engagement with India's developers and start-up community. It recently organized a Digital Open Summit to promote the use of open source technology. The operator hopes startups will help it develop new and innovative services tailored to the needs of local consumers.
But it is not the only operator exploring AI and other in-vogue technologies. Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) are also taking baby steps in AI. Airtel recently hired an Indian scientist called Santanu Bhattacharya as its chief data scientist. He is to work in areas including the Internet of Things, augmented and virtual reality and analytics to help Airtel develop a better understanding of customer behavior and develop services based on that insight. Like Airtel, Vodafone India also hopes to use AI and big data to improve its understanding of customer preferences.
Airtel might also be able to draw on its close relationship with South Korea’s SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), which is using machine learning and big data analytics to automate and optimize mobile networks.
This focus on state-of-the-art technologies represents a new frontier for India's telcos, which are usually known to follow global trends. Technologies such as AI might help telcos to monetize customer usage insights by coming up with targeted products and services at the right time.
India's government, meanwhile, is trying to develop AI ecosystem in India. Its Niti Aayog (the erstwhile planning commission) wants to push AI in areas such as agriculture, smart cities, healthcare, education and infrastructure sectors. It recently released a discussion paper called "National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence," which is supposed to serve as a blueprint for AI in the country. Niti Aayog has also been collaborating with US tech giant IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) on the development of an AI-based crop yield prediction model.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading