Automated Voice Interface allows the user to interact with a system through voice or speech commands. Individuals associate voice with interpersonal communication rather than with person-technology interaction.
Mihup is a provider of automated voice interfaces, it enables enterprise developers to create customized voice interfaces with full control over brand identity and privacy. Mihup offers three B2B SaaS products.
Tapan Barman, Co-Founder and CEO, talks about vision is to make technology inclusive and accessible to all regardless of their language, accent or dialect. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: What was the idea behind Mihup?
Tapan: Mihup Communications Pvt. Ltd, (short for ‘May I Help You Please’), is a Conversational AI platform founded in 2016. The platform enables creation of automated voice interfaces with full control over brand identity and privacy.
I wanted to create something that would make technology accessible to all, irrespective of their language or region. I was fortunate that could I found an ally in the form of my childhood friend. Once we decided on what we wanted to build, we started looking for funds, and connected with the third member of our founding team, Sandipan Chattopadhyay. Together, we incorporated Mihup.
DQ: What is its proprietary platform?
Tapan: Mihup is a fast evolving, trusted and accurate vernacular voice interface platform. It enables enterprise developers to create customized voice interfaces. The platform offers the users complete control over their brand identity and data privacy.
Mihup has created 3 products which are built on our proprietary platforms of (a) Speech to Text (b) Natural Language Processing (c) Dialogue Manager (d) Text to Speech. Our Voice AI products cater mainly to the contact center and automotive space, with the potential to be incorporated onto any platform. These products are:
VIA (Virtual Interaction Analyst) which analyse all inbound/outbound customer interactions to generate actionable business insights, AVA – Call Center (Automated Virtual Agent) that facilitates automated and accurate management of customer queries through a human-like AI interface. And AVA – Auto, an unmatched multi-language vehicle AI assistant which offers various features such as car control, media and entertainment.
DQ: How is it transforming the conversational AI sector?
Tapan: It is making a great impact in the conversational AI sector through its superior outcomes compared to other products available in the market. The technology came to India a little late, and the global brands find it challenging to deal with the linguistic diversity of the country.
Our conversational AI platform integrates Hindi, Hinglish and a mix of other regional languages like Tamil, Bengali, Telugu etc. We want to change the way Indians and the world at large interact with machines and make technology accessible to all. The conversational AI technology ushered in by Mihup has a tremendous social footprint as well.
The integration of vernacular voice AI in various Indian languages and dialects will create a great ease of access to information and digital usage across the rural heartland of the country. It is eventually going to democratize the voice AI usage in machines, home appliances, customer service and numerous other functions since the technology will not remain solely restricted to English speakers.
This kind of usage also augurs development on the basis of understanding of needs and aspirations of people from different regions of the country as it will facilitate compilation of vernacular data and generate insights from a wider audience. It can work offline, in vehicles and low connectivity areas to create a stronger Internet of vehicles ecosystem which will make our roads safer, transportation more efficient and provide access even in far-flung areas or during inclement weather. Our platform is already being used by leading automobile companies, food delivery platforms, political parties and various other business verticals.
DQ: What are the USPs of the company?
Tapan: Multilingual and Vernacular is a transformational technology platform which is offering unmatched innovation in the field of voice AI. Until now, the conversational AI platforms have been based predominantly on US English accent conversations with some development in the field of natural language processing. However, what we are doing is fundamentally altering the conversations by integrating Hindi, Hinglish and other mix of regional languages into the conversation.
Voice AI on the Edge doesn’t necessarily need internet connection at all times and can seamlessly work in low-connectivity areas and even offline to make it a superior companion for usage in vehicles and rural areas. Thus, it is going to be a great choice for use cases such as car control, media and entertainment etc. Our solutions are finding increasing usage in media, entertainment, consumer electronics, Internet of Things, retail, ecommerce, automobiles, BFSI and various other sectors. Coupled with a low carbon footprint, the product is built in India to solve for India.
Environmentally sustainable has a low carbon footprint. It provides Voice AI on the edge. It can work reliably on lesser compute than the industry standard (10-20x lesser) and voice AI on the edge ensures zero connectivity requirement. AI on the edge facilitates lower power costs (1W – 5W) and eliminates the requirement for large cloud- based servers. This contributes to saving bandwidth and power consumption in a major way. It is our continuous endeavour to innovate and advance our solutions to work better without internet and cloud computing. In fact, our vehicle voice assistant (AVA) is one of the only voice assistants from India which works without the use of Internet connectivity in vehicles.
With our Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) based solutions, we are enabling the underserved population of India who miss out on innovation in the field of smart devices, automotive because of the requirement of English- speaking skills. Whatever be the language, accent or dialect, if it is Indian, Mihup shall have a solution for it.
Today, Tata Motors is using our high accuracy in mixed Indian languages through our product AVA as its smart vehicle assistant (called IRA) where users can interact with the vehicle just like they would speak to any other human and perform in vehicle functions. We also won the Citizen’s Voice Challenge organised by MyGov where our Indian language speech to text capability was used to understand citizen feedback and grievances. Even for our interaction analytics product (VIA) Indian language customer interactions are analysed to derive actionable business insights.
DQ: What are your future plans, partnerships?
Tapan: The platform has already analysed over 100 million customer interactions and offers 100% interaction analysis to give a precise understanding of the “Voice of the Customer.” Our business has grown 60X and we have added customers from various domains – from Fortune 500 companies to technology unicorns. We have also onboarded 10 new clients in the last quarter itself.
As the country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hon’ble PM has unveiled his mission for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ wherein India will become self-sufficient and a global supplier for all things including technology. As a transformational start-up developing completely home-grown conversational AI tools, Mihup has a lot of potential to contribute to this cause.
DQ: What kind of funding has Mihup received so far?
Tapan: We recently raised 1.5 million in Series A round led by Accel Partners, Ideaspring Capital, leading investor Rajesh Jain’s firm Core91 VC and Jayant Kadambi (Founder and CEO YuMe Networks).
DQ: What is the future of automated voice interface?
Tapan: For a revolutionary technology like what Mihup offers, the future holds limitless possibilities. We are already witnessing a huge potential in sectors ranging from automobile to healthcare and FMCG. For instance, voice AI in customer service is reducing the workload on human agents. We are already seeing the huge developments in home automation and smartphone AI assistants. There is definitely a great future for the automated voice interfaces in the post-COVID world.
DQ: How the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry?
Tapan: Statistics suggest that the global speech recognition market size is projected to reach $29.28 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 19.9% from 2019 to 2026. The pandemic saw consumers and organisations, both, turn to adapting technology at a fast pace. Our products essentially contribute towards digitisation and automation of processes, which was the mantra during the pandemic.
Be it use of voice assistants or using a virtual interaction analytics tool to keep a track on working from home agents – voice AI has received a significant boost. Businesses are relooking at Customer Service and Customer Experience, which also happens to be the focus area of our products. Also, given that we work with sectors like automobile and e-commerce – which witnessed growth – our clientele only saw a boost. The pandemic also offered us a chance to understand the business impact that Voice AI can have on businesses and how we could upgrade our product features to align with the same.
DQ: How can Interaction Analytics lead to Customer Service Transformation?
Tapan: Mihup’s interaction analytics solution has incredible benefits for customer service operations and the technology can completely transform the user experience.
When analysing 100% of its interactions, an organization ensures that all customer/agent behavior/product/operational concerns are proactively handled. Actionable business insights emerge from customer interactions whereas manual analysis does not allow users to consume insights from these. On the other hand, sample-based analysis is biased, half-baked and even misleading.
To understand what customers are talking about and reduce their pain points, 100% interaction analytics is imperative. All of this will further lead to improved CSAT and reduced escalations.