All of us want a friend we can count on. A buddy who we can make impromptu movie plans with. A friend who shares the best online deals with us and helps us recharge our mobile just when we need it. What if we told you that an app can be that friend? All you have to do is say the magic words “Hello Niki” to turn complex online transactions into something as simple as a chat with a friend! In a world where digital interfaces are replacing personal interactions, Niki, an AI chatbot, is bringing back the human touch by speaking Hindi with users.
Niki.ai, a pioneer in conversational commerce, is helping users transact online by talking to an AI bot in Hindi and eliminating the need to type. The startup has simplified online transactions for semi-literate as well as illiterate Hindi speakers with the voice interface. Users can ‘talk’ to Niki in Hindi to book movie tickets, recharge mobile and pay postpaid bills. The company has reported that the number of app users has considerably gone up after Niki started speaking Hindi.
We spoke to Praveen Jain, 37, who is a Company Secretary from Mumbai, about his experience with Niki’s voice support in Hindi. Praveen, who is a Hindi language evangelist believes that any product that is rolled out for the Indian market should be usable by the ‘aam aadmi’. In his words, “Every country builds apps for its people in their own language and we should too. I am thrilled that Niki has enabled Hindi speaking ability for the bot. I’ve been talking to Niki in Hindi to get mobile recharge and bill payments done. With Niki, transacting online has become simpler than ever. I hope they add food and medicine delivery services too.”
In a country where Hindi is the most spoken language and almost 90% of Hindi speakers don’t know a second language, Niki’s Hindi speaking ability will enable billions of Indians to use technology without any language barriers. Namdev Sherkar, 28, is a mobile recharge shop owner from Pune who uses Niki for quick and convenient mobile recharge transactions. “I’m a school dropout and know only a smattering of English. When I discovered Niki’s voice option in Hindi, I started using it at my shop to recharge my customers’ mobiles. Niki has given me a simple yet powerful tool to boost my efficiency and business. I also find the many payment options and cashback offers very useful as I don’t have a debit card,” he shared.
Raveendra Gupta, a 25-year-old Data Entry Operator from Gujarat, knows both Hindi and English. He primarily used his smartphone to watch religious discourses, chat and browse on Sharechat/Facebook until he came across Niki’s Hindi voice support. Niki’s Hindi voice interface made it extremely easy for him to use the app for recharge and utility bill payments. He now frequently uses Niki for online transactions and even helps his colleagues and friends to pay their bills online. “Thanks to Niki, I’m known as the tech-savvy guy in my office. I enjoy the fact that I can help my colleagues pay their bills. Before Niki I was also skeptical about paying bills online as the interface seemed complicated, but now that I’ve realized how easy it is, I always talk to Niki to get things done,” said Raveendra.
For a majority of Indians who know English, it is either their second or third language. For instance, Ravi Kumar Raghav, a 25-year-old working professional from Ghaziabad prefers using the app in Hindi, even though he understands English. The app’s understanding of Hinglish intents allows Ravi to interact with Niki by typing Hindi words in English script. “No dikkat, bahut easy,” he quipped.
While it is fairly easy for Gen Z to adapt to new technology as they are born in a digital-first world, older generations find it progressively more difficult. However, a voice interface in one’s own language can break through the thick walls of complicated interfaces. Ram Kumar, a 20-year-old student from Jaipur, prefers chatting in English with Niki, but encourages his semi-literate family members and friends to try the app’s Hindi voice feature. Hindi speaking users who were otherwise intimidated by digital interfaces in English have now started transacting online, thanks to Niki’s linguistic skills.
Since most apps have an English interface, people in tier II, tier III cities and towns in India limit the use of technology to social media, messaging apps and video/entertainment apps. This factor contributes to the isolation of technology from India’s non-English speaking population, who are the emerging users of internet and smartphones. Niki’s Hindi voice support is changing that by making technology more inclusive by empowering the masses to transact online.
The company provides smooth and easy-to-use voice & chat interface in Hindi and English. Users can simply talk or text Niki to shop for numerous products and services like movie and bus ticket booking, hotel and cab booking, utility bill payments, mobile recharges, local deals and laundry service, to name a few. To the businesses, it provides a plug-and-play technology in the form of Niki SDK that can be easily integrated everywhere including operating systems, on messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, and on the brand’s applications (Android, iOS and web). Niki’s SDK partners include HDFC Bank, Federal Bank, ICICI Bank, Karbonn Smartphones, Intex, Oxigen Wallet, ePayLater, and Earlysalary to name a few.
Started in 2015, and backed by Mr. Ratan Tata, Unilazer Ventures and SAP.iO among other investors, Niki.ai envisions to provide one shop for everything commerce. With the power of natural conversations, Niki makes the whole journey from discovery to transaction fast, convenient and extremely simple.
With 430% revenue growth in FY18, the company has 60+ partners on board, with many more in the pipeline. On the customer front, the company has more than 2 Mn customers using Niki. The company plans to integrate many more services on its platform including that of a stockbroker and insurance agent so that for most of the needs that a consumer may have, Niki is the first thing that strikes his mind. Speech recognition and Multilingual support, which are in the making, will provide users the ability to simply speak to Niki and chat in their regional language, and get tasks done on the go.