Ratan Tata invests undisclosed sum in chat-bot Niki.ai

Ratan TataRatan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd, has invested an undisclosed amount in Niki.ai, run by Techbins Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a start-up that offers a chat-bot for users to perform transactions.

Niki.ai's existing investor, Unilazer Ventures, which invested an undisclosed amount in a seed funding round last October, also participated in this round.

Chat-bots have come to the fore this year as large technology companies like Facebook, Google and Slack have adopted them. They also offer a simplified user experience at a time when smartphone users are inundated with multiple apps.

Started in 2015 by IIT Kharagpur alumni Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel, and Shishir Modi, Niki.ai employs about 21 people and helps users make bill payments, book cabs, recharge phones, order food and home services, and view live cricket scores.

''Over the next six months, we have many more services planned, including bus booking, hotel booking and laundry booking, and we will use the funds to get more services and improve our technology,'' said Sachin Jaiswal, chief executive officer of Niki.ai.

The company claims a user base of 40,000 and plans to release software development kits using which brands can integrate chat-bots within their own applications to increase its reach.

Niki.ai, which is completely automated and does not require human intervention, competes with companies such as MagicX, run by Magiclane App Services Pvt. Ltd, which is another chat-based concierge app that helps users order groceries, recharge phones, and book flight tickets, which in April, raised $1 million in venture funding.

It also competes with older concierge service start-ups like Helpchat (Coraza Technologies Pvt. Ltd.) and Lookup (Hatchery Software Pvt. Ltd), which offer users a similar chat-based interface, but have so far relied on humans to process queries and complete transactions.

These start-ups have started to use chat-bots to increase their efficiency too. Helpchat, for instance, automates 60 per cent of their queries, according to chief executive Ankur Singla.