Published: 06th September 2020
This app built by IIT Kharagpur alumni can help you make digital transactions in your language
Sachin Jaiswal, Co-founder of the Niki app speaks about the story behind developing the app that was initially funded by Ronnie Screwvala and Ratan Tata
Not everyone knows English and it becomes difficult for people to do digital transactions when they only know the local language. That's why Sachin Jaiswal and his friends, who studied together at IIT Kharagpur, set up Niki and developed the app, a conversational online platform that helps in the easy process of shopping for people who speak only regional languages. Sachin recalls, "I saw how my mother and other family members found it difficult to do online transactions or even order basic products. As a result, they were limited to physical shops to buy what they needed. But there aren't too many options available for them to explore here. I feel like most of us, they too must get different options when they go shopping. And even if people understand English, typing on the keyboard is a huge challenge for them. That's when I felt that we must develop a platform where people who don't know English can easily order whatever they want by conversing in the local language."
Sachin along with his friends Keshaw Prawasi, Nitin Babel and Shishir Modi launched Niki in 2015. So far, they have a total of four languages available on their AI platform - English, Hindi, Tamil and Bengali. Initially, the team faced several challenges to include these languages in their software and make every step easy for the users. Sachin explains, "While tapping data on the number of people speaking particular Indian languages didn't take much time as it was available on various platforms, it took time for us to develop the Natural Language Processing as well as Dialog Management Engine that play a key role in developing conversations with the users at every step. Our team took extra care to see that the conversation between the app and the users looks natural rather than being a mere translation of English sentences or words."
Sachin Jaiswal, Co-founder, Niki app
After a few years of launching their app, when Sachin and the team conducted a survey, they realised that it was time to add a voice feature in the app. Not everyone might know how to type in the vernacular language and that's where the voice command plays a key role, believes Sachin. Isn't that amazing? From the humble shopkeeper who can now pay his electricity bill digitally to a senior citizen ordering products online, Niki has become everyone's favourite.
This team, which has further strengthened digital India, is happy with the overwhelming response they've received from people, especially in Tier II and III cities. "The number of users for our app increased only during the lockdown. In fact, 95 per cent of the users came from Tier II and III cities. It also helped us double our revenue. Currently, there are two million users for our platform and we are hoping to expand to different parts of India," says Sachin, adding, "We want to include 11 more languages. These 11 languages are spoken by a majority of Indians and they include Telugu, Malayalam, Odia, Kannada, Marathi and a few others."