“Robots are the new middle class. And everyone else will either be an entrepreneur or a temp staffer.” -James Altucher
In the months from November 2016 to January 2017, the Indian banking system quietly saw the beginning of yet another revolution. It was not as talked about and debated like the demonetisation move by PM Narendra Modi.Rather, it started off with the appearance of two friendly humanoids in the Indian banking scene – Lakshmi and IRA.
So, in November 2016, City Union Bank became the first bank in India to introduce a robot to deal with customer queries. Lakshmi, the robot, based on IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence (AI) engine, is located at a branch in Chennai and could rattle off answers to almost 125 different customer queries.
In January 2017, India’s second largest private sector lender, HDFC Bank followed suit deploying a humanoid called IRA at their Kamla Mills branch in Mumbai. IRA developed using robotics and AI technologies by a Kochi-based startup, Asimov Robotics, is positioned near the welcome desk where it greets customers and guides them to the relevant counter in the branch – such as cash deposit, foreign exchange, loans among others.