The Journey of India’s Political Siri: How Voice and AI Are Unifying The Nation

India is a land of diverse cultures and languages. According to the latest census, almost 20,000 languages and dialects are spoken across India. But, technology applications and services are still largely available only in English. With nine out of ten Indians being vernacular language speaking, it is predicted that the next billion users coming online in India will not use English as a primary medium of communication. Indian vernacular languages will be the preferred medium of communication – however local languages are difficult to type in, and many users may be illiterate.

Added to this, there is a huge rise in the adoption of voice-assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Alexa, for daily functions.

Voice interaction allows consumers to benefit from the always on economy. Equally, it allows companies to target the next 300 million vernacular Indian consumers, beyond the English speakers.

The market potential for voice, is simply, in the words of Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart, ‘…endless- ‘for discovery, search, engagements and transactions’ .

So the synergy of vernacular languages, exponential rise of voice assistants, and the boom in smartphone penetration, led Sirish and Kavita Reddi to establish the global speech technology company Voxta Communications.

Set up to build speech recognition in Indian languages, it helps Indians access information and carry out transactions, using voice. Voxta launched in 2014, with IVR speech recognition, initially for marketing campaigns. Now, Voxta has smart phone speech recognition in six Indian languages, configurable voice bots, and a distributed data collection platform to collect and process  audio, data fast.

Voxta speech recognition engines are used to support speech analytics in call centres as well. The configurable voice bot platform allows team Voxta to build new bots in a matter of weeks – these bots can effectively extract meaning from output text, manage conversation with end users, connect with client APIs to receive and input structured data, and provide responses to the user across multiple channels like text, voice and image. Data remains an integral part of Voxta’s product suite, so the team has built Jobbr – a distributed data platform that allows for rapid collection and annotation of data sets for specific requirements. Based on project demand and language proficiency, Jobbr helps manage several thousand contractors across multiple locations for rapid processing.

Voxta’s services are currently used across industries such as banking & financial services, e-commerce, information & governance, travel services and telecom.

Political Siri: Modi Speaks Through Voxta

Voxta launched commercially with a campaign for Narendra Modi for the 2014 General Election, when almost every major political party used the power of digital media to communicate with voters across the spectrum. Voxta’s IVR Hindi campaign, dubbed a ‘Political Siri’ helped connect Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to millions of voters. BJP developed a questionnaire, on various issues that mattered to the people of India, and had these queries answered by Modi himself. If a voter called a specific toll-free number, he could hear Modi’s views on key issues like women’s safety, civic infrastructure, economic development and other government schemes. Essentially a voice search, it received close to 3 million phone calls in one month, and becoming one of the earliest large scale efforts in India to use voice and vernacular media to propagate government policy.

Voxta also worked on a Swatch Bharat campaign for Reckitt Benkiser and Dettol – this was a voice-driven campaign for India’s most remote pockets to drive awareness on personal hygiene and cleanliness. In addition, through Voxta’s voice poll facility, Dettol was able to collect a substantial amount of data on what the inhabitants in these areas really needed to ensure health and sanitantion in their villages.

Other clients of Voxta include digital skills training platform Talent Sprint, not-for-profit Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, educational assessment company Gray Matters and the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC).

Voxta voice bots work in call centres, mobiles, or mobile web sites. Speech recognition and AI simplify and automate processes, allowing human agents to focus on priority areas, without compromising quality. FAQs and routine customer queries can be handled easily. The key benefit is the ability to target millions of Indian consumers in a multitude of languages, reducing costs and delivering a higher, and more uniform quality of customer service.

Voxta voice services help people who may not be literate, or digitally literate, get the benefits of the internet revolution. It means they can get access to vital information in health, education, government services, maternity and child issues etc, and carry out transactions like pay their gas bill using voice, in their own language!

Voxta Comminucations was a winner of the AI for Good Award, conducted by NASSCOM Center of Excellence for DS&AI in association with the Government of Karnataka. You can watch their interview here

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