Ex-Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka Says India Can Become World Leader In AI
Vishal Sikka, former chief executive officer of Infosys and founder of AI startup Vianai Systems. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Ex-Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka Says India Can Become World Leader In AI

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Vishal Sikka, a former chief executive officer of IT firm Infosys Ltd., believes India has the potential to become a world leader in Artificial Intelligence, and the country's education sector holds the key to achieve that milestone.

Vishal Sikka’s AI startup, Vianai Systems, recently raised $50 million from undisclosed investors.

India is at "an inflection point" when it comes to AI, the former Infosys CEO said. Over the next 20-25 years, AI is going to be "a very, very big disruptor" for the Indian society as what one is seeing now, in terms of automation and job losses due to it, is just the beginning, said Sikka.

If India does nothing, then this great wave of AI is going to “have massive disruption” over the next 20 years. But if India puts together programmes, then this can be a huge advantage for the country and "we can be a leader in the world", he said.

"...if we are able to bring AI education, ability to build AI systems to India at a very large scale, and I'm talking about a billion-plus people, then India can really leap frog and become the world's leader in Artificial Intelligence, in AI skill and AI talent.”

That, Sikka said, requires working on multiple dimensions in parallel—creating necessary infrastructure to bring the talent through institutions, educational or otherwise.

In August, at the request of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sikka gave a presentation before the NITI Aayog on how to expand the reach of AI in the Indian society in a very big way. "It was very encouraging. But I think a lot of that has to be done," he said, and suggested multi-faceted countrywide programme like digital classrooms.

Vianai Systems

Sikka’s Vianai Systems is an AI Enterprise Platform startup with a mission to help businesses around the world successfully leverage AI to drive fundamental digital transformations.

He sees remarkable achievements in the field of AI but said significant issues too have emerged. "The technique itself is quite opaque, not transparent. The lack of ability to explain is one of the major weaknesses of these techniques," Sikka said.

There is also an incredible shortage of talent in the field of AI.

Against this backdrop, Sikka said he started Vianai Systems with an aim to build a platform that can dramatically improve accessibility to AI. Vianai is educational, he said, explains to people how AI works and how they can experiment with the technology.

"That is what my prototype was about," said Sikka.

Sikka has raised $50 million as seed funding for his AI startup.

"Hopefully, we wouldn't have to raise any money again," he said, adding that the objective is to bring AI to businesses on a massive scale. Last week, he demonstrated the first glimpse of the platform at the Oracle Open World event in the Silicon Valley.

AI Focus

One of the reasons why there are so few applications of engineer machine learning is that the techniques and the tools are extremely dense.

"So (with Vianai), we wanted to make it dramatically simpler to access an AI system and to execute on AI. Vianai reduced thousands of lines of codes to a few dozen... This will make the systems much much simpler," he said.

"We have been thinking very carefully, and very diligently about how we can come up with a platform that is completely agnostic, completely open and yet makes it dramatically simpler, and more efficient and more exploratory to build an AI system.

“And with that when you think about a future where enterprises will deploy dozens, if not hundreds, of AI applications, you need something like this to make that happen. And that's what we are working on," Sikka said.

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