Empowering the GenAI revolution: Gaurav Arora, AWS

Gaurav Arora spoke to Dataquest about how AWS is guiding Indian startups towards a future defined by innovation, collaboration, and transformative growth within the GenAI revolution

Supriya Rai
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Gaurav Arora

Gaurav Arora

In the dynamic landscape of technology and innovation, the emergence of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) stands as a transformative force, particularly pronounced within the Indian startup ecosystem. Spearheading this revolution is Gaurav Arora, Director and Head of Startup Business, Asia Pacific and Japan at Amazon Web Service with a rich tapestry of experience in nurturing startups across Asia, the Pacific, and Japan. With a background as a venture capitalist, Arora's insights into the intricacies of entrepreneurship are deeply rooted, enabling him to understand the challenges startups face at every stage of their lifecycle. Recently, Arora spoke to Dataquest, and highlighted how AWS is guiding Indian startups towards a future defined by innovation, collaboration, and transformative growth within the GenAI revolution.


DQ: Can you provide insights into the current landscape of startups in India that AWS is actively mentoring and supporting?

Gaurav Arora: Allow me to begin with a brief introduction. I'm Gaurav Arora, overseeing startup initiatives across Asia, the Pacific, and Japan. My journey in the startup ecosystem has been extensive. I began at AWS in India, where I spent five years building the startup ecosystem before relocating to Singapore to extend my leadership across a broader region. India holds a special place in my heart, having also served as a venture capitalist prior to that. 

Our entire team has deep-rooted experience within the startup ecosystem, allowing us to intimately understand the challenges startups face at every stage of their lifecycle. Consequently, we're well-equipped to tailor our programs and solutions to meet their evolving needs. India's startup ecosystem has long been mature, supported by a robust network of venture capitalists, incubators, accelerators, and successful entrepreneurs who have scaled globally.


Currently, we're witnessing the emergence of GenAI technology as a transformative force, particularly pronounced in India. This next wave of innovation spans across all industries and business sizes. I'm eager to explore specific sectors, such as healthtech and FinTech, where we observe significant momentum. Additionally, there's a notable surge in GenAI adoption within the realms of media and entertainment.

Broadly, we're observing GenAI adoption in two categories. Firstly, startups leveraging GenAI models to enhance efficiency, productivity, or customer experience. Secondly, there are those developing foundation models for others to fine-tune and deploy. In India, we're witnessing substantial momentum in applying GenAI services and foundation models across existing industries and use cases.

DQ: How does AWS identify and select startups to mentor, and what criteria do you consider when choosing to support a particular startup?


Gaurav Arora: At AWS, we pride ourselves on providing support and mentorship to entrepreneurs across all industries and of all sizes. While we maintain an inclusive approach, we offer enhanced support when collaborating closely with top investors. Our ecosystem outreach evolves based on feedback from investors and metrics regarding attendee demographics. I'm excited to discuss some impactful use cases we've encountered. Recently, we launched accelerator programs tailored to the GenAI space, spanning from three to twelve weeks. These programs offer selected startups comprehensive mentoring, credits, networking opportunities, and specialist support to integrate GenAI technologies effectively. For example, we have a program called ML Elevate, a six-week accelerator program designed to nurture and empower early-stage machine learning startups. We launched ML Elevate in association with Accel, to empowering generative AI startups in India. The 2023 cohort, which included 35 generative AI startups such as Blend, Boltzmann, Frammer AI,, Dashtoon,, among others, received access to impactful AI models and tools, guidance from AWS and global experts, the AWS Activate Program, and up to $200,000 in AWS credits. Blend, is a deep-learning-powered photo and design editing app - that democratizes access to studio-quality photography and generative AI. SMB sellers use Blend around the world to create professional product visuals in just 3 clicks to stand out and sell more online. Blend identifies the product and its pose in the photo, instantly removes the background, and automatically generates thousands of designs optimized for 16 e-commerce marketplaces and 8 social media platforms within minutes. Blend uses Amazon SageMaker to deploy and scale its machine-learning models. Furthermore, support and specialist sessions offered by AWS helped the startup to reduce its cloud costs by over 25%. Using AWS services, Blend’s deep learning algorithms generate more than a million designs every day, supporting thousands of e-commerce businesses to create ready-to-use product listings and marketing images. Blend was also a part our AWS ML Elevate program in 2023, that focused on empowering generative AI startups in India.

Additionally, we facilitate networking opportunities for later-stage companies by connecting them with our global network and resources. AWS, in partnership with Peak XV, recently hosted the AWS US GenAI Delegation, comprising 63 APJ startup founders and 4 venture capitalists/investors, where they gained insights and actionable learnings from top AI and ML leaders from the valley. They got to network and learn from the biggest startups that are harnessing GenAI, including Stripe, Cohere, Snorkel AI, and StabilityAI. Startup founders also got to visit an Amazon Fulfilment Centre to experience the latest innovations of AI and Robotics in action. One of the examples I'd like to state here is ShipRocket.

ShipRocket is India’s largest eCommerce enablement platform that connects retailers, carriers, and consumers across national and international locations. Their stack of tech integrations enables shipping, fulfillment, customer communication, and marketing tools for SMEs, D2C retailers, and social commerce retailers in India. Shiprocket leverages Amazon SageMaker for catalog enrichment through product category prediction and to streamline operations for efficiency. They have improved their predictive capabilities in shipping and logistics helping reduce Return to Origin (RTO) shipments. They also use custom SageMaker models to enhance customer postal addresses for completeness and seamless delivery experience. ShipRocket participated in the US GenAI delegation organized by AWS and received access to insights and actionable learnings from GenAI product and business leaders based in US, into the fast-evolving product and business landscape, new business models, and competitive dynamics in generative AI.


DQ: With the evolving technology landscape, what emerging trends do you see among Indian startups in terms of their use of AWS services and solutions?

Gaurav Arora: At this juncture, beyond GenAI, we find startups seeking highly tailored support for industry-specific use cases. To meet this demand, we've adapted our offerings to align with various industries and their unique needs. This tailored approach stems from understanding the desired outcomes of our clients' end customers. Take Healthify, for instance. As a leading fitness and health app serving millions of users and trainers, they prioritize enhancing the retention and capacity of their coaches. Leveraging GenAI tools like Comprehend and SageMaker, along with services like Bedrock, they've achieved remarkable results. Their call analytics solution expected to give up to  a 75% increase in coaching capacity, while their Snap feature improved meal logging consistency among customers by 80%. Similarly, we collaborate closely with game tech companies, such as Rooter and Games 24x7, and FinTech entities like INDMoney. For INDMoney, cost-effectiveness was paramount, leading us to deploy Elastic Container Service on spot instances, resulting in significant cost savings. Additionally, with their financial news engine, INDsight, the customer integrated Gen AI-driven imagery to enhance user immersion, by leveraging Stable Diffusion APIs through Amazon Bedrock  for rapid deployment at a fraction of the cost. By closely monitoring startup trends and aligning our services with their use cases, we ensure our support remains agile and effective.

DQ: What specific challenges do Indian startups face in terms of technology infrastructure, and how does AWS address these challenges through its services and support programs?


Gaurav Arora: Speaking specifically about India, one of the most prevalent challenges for startups is achieving global scalability, a challenge we actively address. As I mentioned earlier, our extensive network of resources and customer base, alongside initiatives like delegations, facilitate global expansion. Another avenue we utilize is our marketplace solution, with being a standout example. is using Amazon Bedrock, to rapidly prototype, iterate and scale generative AI applications for goal-driven conversations and enhanced customer support. Since migrating to AWS in May 2023, has reduced its operational costs by 20%, driven performance improvement by 15% and cut infrastructure costs by 10%. Our ISV Accelerate program further aids in scaling globally, providing incentives and support to ISVs. With Marketplace boasting over 330,000 customers, startups listing on it gain access to a vast audience, facilitating their global reach. Another common challenge faced by startups is acquiring the necessary skill set and getting started. Our approach has always been to democratize access to various foundation models, partnering with leading entities like AI21, Cohere, Stability, and Mistral. Through training and enablement sessions, our experts work closely with startups to explore possibilities, ensuring cost-effective solutions tailored to their needs. Whether fully managed or utilizing foundation models as APIs, startups have the flexibility to adapt based on their expertise and resources, leveraging our ML performance chipsets for efficient model development.

DQ: Can you elaborate on the role of AWS in fostering collaboration between startups and other players in the Indian ecosystem, such as venture capital firms and accelerators? In what ways does AWS contribute to the overall growth and development of the Indian startup ecosystem beyond providing technical infrastructure?

Gaurav Arora: I'd like to elaborate on the progress we're making. While there's a positive shift in sentiment and genuine innovation, we're also committed to helping startups prolong their runway. Proactive cost optimization plays a pivotal role here, recognizing that cash is paramount for startups. We employ various mechanisms to optimize costs, such as transitioning to more cost-effective instances and implementing serverless architectures. Additionally, we provide tools for startups to monitor and manage their expenditures effectively. Furthermore, we're actively assisting startups with their go-to-market strategies, complementing efforts to boost top-line revenue. Initiatives like the ML Elevate program in India and industry-specific accelerators such as SaaS Central and FinTech Accelerator are instrumental in this regard. These programs facilitate connections between startups and larger enterprises, fostering relationships that contribute to sustainable growth. 

DQ: Looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of the Indian startup ecosystem, and how does AWS plan to continue playing a significant role in its evolution?

Gaurav Arora: I hold a strong optimism for the Indian startup ecosystem, having personally witnessed its growth and the emergence of groundbreaking innovations across various industries and scales. I firmly believe that startups will harness the power of generative AI to drive the next wave of innovation, impacting both industries and society positively. AWS, as I mentioned earlier, plays a pivotal role in this journey, offering a comprehensive suite of services from inception to scale-up, including vital connections and go-to-market support. Our commitment to India extends beyond just technology services; we've invested US$3.7 billion in infrastructure from 2017 to 2022 and pledged an additional US$12.7 billion in the coming years, poised to contribute significantly to India's GDP. Enabling developers and startups on AWS technology remains a key focus. AWS has also trained more than 4 million individuals in India with cloud skills since 2017. In summary, we're deeply enthusiastic about the potential of Gen AI technology and remain steadfast in our support. Our goal is to make cutting-edge solutions accessible, practical, and cost-effective for businesses of all sizes and across all industries, within a secure and privacy-conscious environment. We eagerly anticipate the positive impact this will have on society, paving the way for a better tomorrow.