As more Indians are signing up for digital services in the post-pandemic world, start-ups are increasingly leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to redefine consumer experience and fuel the growth of their businesses.

“Right from reading the customer behaviour and making the right recommendations to maintaining product quality and judging behavioural changes, AI and ML play a vital role in business development,” explains Jayesh Jose, chief technology officer at FreshToHome — an online firm that sells fresh fish and meat.

Start-ups deploy AI and ML to gather rich insights on pricing, demand prediction, product mix and customer preference. Using AI and Internet of Things (IoT) for perishable items in its cold chain ensures safe processing from sourcing till delivery, says Jose. “Earlier businesses used to depend on historical data or past performances but now there are behavioural changes, making that data inadequate. At FreshToHome, we use adaptive AI that learns in real-time rather than the typical AI drawing primarily from past insights. This is where the role of AI and ML becomes even more relevant today than in the pre-pandemic times," he adds.

India is home to scores of start-ups that typically bank on technology to build varied products and services for users across segments. Using digital tools like AI and ML to drive business amid growing competition is gaining prominence.

Fintech start-up Khatabook — which has garnered more than 10 million monthly active merchants on its app in less than three years — tells that the efficient use of AI and ML for app optimisation has improved user experience for scores of merchants on its platform, and ensured user stickiness. Khatabook builds solutions to digitally equip small and medium businesses. “Besides user experience, business predictability is another area where AI and ML models are beneficial to help build businesses. You can estimate the business you will do in the coming months based on the current business run rate and other factors with the help of AI and ML modelling,” says Arpit Agarwal, Vice President (Analytics & Data Science), Khatabook. In the broader context of the fintech ecosystem, AI and ML mitigate the risk of fake transactions to an extent, and also help assess individuals' creditworthiness, making digital lending efficient. Agarwal expects to see a surge in hiring for data science experts by companies in the future.

Social commerce start-up Meesho plans to add at least 50 more staff to its current 10-member team of data scientists in the next year. The company claims to have seen a 20 times growth in the number of new users through the course of pandemic. The company avows that AI and ML are critical to personalising the shopping experience for consumers. “Personalising the user experience has been a big differentiator for us,” says Founder & CTO Sanjeev Barnwal. AI and ML also help suppliers to build upon their inventory. Meesho is making hefty investments in deep learning to help the platform’s advertisers reach target users. “The spurt of growth has forced us to advance the AL and ML roadmap by a few years. Personalisation gave us up to 50% improvement in order per user,” adds Barnwal.

The D2C beauty and personal care brand SkinKraft Laboratories taps AI-driven technology to provide dermatologically approved and customised skincare solutions to customers. “Personalisation, customisation, AI and beauty tech will go mainstream. We are gearing up to be the market leader in this space of AI and data science-driven skin, hair, body care,” tells SkinKraft Co-founder Chaitanya Nallan.

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