Indian enterprise conversational AI startup Yellow Messenger will work with Microsoft to upgrade its voice AI services to behave more like a human. The startup will collaborate with Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive division to design a new platform that clients can use to build custom voice assistants for customer service and other purposes.
YELLOW AND AZURE
Yellow Messenger is a popular chatbot platform for businesses in India, counting Accenture, Flipkart, and two of India’s largest private banks among its high-profile clients. The chatbots are used to engage with customers and employees, deploying on Slack, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Microsoft Teams in more than 120 languages. While Yellow does offer a voice AI service, it is limited to around 35 languages and was built in-house.
The new arrangement will boost Yellow Messenger’s voice AI capabilities by incorporating the Azure AI Speech Services and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology. Next, Yellow and Microsoft will work together on a whole new voice assistant platform, with the capacity to detect and respond to different dialects and emotional sentiment of the user’s language. Yellow Messenger has plenty of capital backing up its voice ambition. The startup closed a $20 million funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, following up on a $4 million round from the venture capital firms Indian division the year before.
“Voice, as compared to text, is a more complex channel due to multiple factors at play such as the real-time experience, varying accents by country, and legacy architecture,” Yellow Messenger CEO Raghu Ravinutala said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Microsoft’s Azure Speech Services is empowering us to build customized voice models that allow higher accuracy and better intent understanding.”
Microsoft and Yellow Messenger’s arrangement takes a cue from India’s burgeoning enterprise voice and AI market. A growing number of Indian companies have started to implement voice assistants for internal and external use. ICICI Bank created voice apps for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant earlier this year to encourage banking by voice, and Indian airline SpiceJet debuted a customer service voice AI named Pepper last month that speaks English and Hindi, built with Nuance’s AI platform and natural language understanding engine for both languages. Even the national government is soliciting developers to build a voice assistant and chatbot that can digitally deliver government services. Augmenting Yellow Messenger’s voice capabilities with Microsoft Azure could accelerate the trend in India, especially as more people acquire voice assistant-enabled devices and get more comfortable talking to an AI to complete errands.
“More human interactions mean new opportunities. Azure Cognitive Services help people interact simply and naturally with technology and make engagement with services more human, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty,” Microsoft India managing director Sashikumar Sreedharan said. “We believe our collaboration will help Yellow Messenger transform voice automation and enable enterprises across industries to take their customer relationships to a new level.”
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