Hyperlocal solutions provider NextBillion.ai is looking to expand its operations in India and Singapore with a $7 Mn Series A funding round led by Lightspeed India Partners and Falcon Edge Capital. Lightspeed partner Hemant Mohapatra and Falcon Edge Capital’s cofounder Navroz Udwadia will join the company’s board of directors.
The company said it would also use the funding to develop products and start research and development (R&D) in key focus areas.The company was founded earlier in 2020 by Ajay Bulusu, Gaurav Bubna and Shaolin Zheng, who were previously working with Southeast Asian ride-hailing unicorn Grab. It is currently building a network of AI-based hyperlocal solutions, starting off its journey with mapping as its core offering.
NextBillion.Ai is currently running a pilot of its offerings with 20 customers across industries and segments — social media, ride-hailing, food delivery, freight and logistics. Nearly 50% of these customers are based in India, while the rest are spread around the US, Southeast Asia and China.
The company’s cofounder Bulusu highlighted that the mapping is the first use case with the proprietary technology and the company will get into more verticals like natural language processing, facial recognition and cybersecurity in the months to come.
NextBillion.ai claims its mapping and navigation products are better tailored for emerging markets than big tech solutions such as Google Maps. The company will also share the accumulated data with the client to help them customise and control the product.
Bulusu said, “We have a lot of hyperlocal nuances. For instance, no company gives you a specific API for route optimisation of trucks, or autos, or two-wheelers. But the route a truck takes to deliver a package versus a bike might be significantly different.”
AI is particularly useful in hyperlocal context for lead generations, personalisation, curation and customisation of the services. According to the Forrester Research report, there was an expected 300% increase in investments in AI in 2017 alone as companies were looking to maximise their conversion rates and improve efficiency.
Another report, published before the pandemic, stated that the Indian hyperlocal market was expected to reach $344 Mn by 2020. Nonetheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has given a further boost to hyperlocal services as people fear stepping out of their house. As of October 2019, late-stage investments into hyperlocal startups make up for 79.59% of the total funding in the consumer services segment, as per DataLabs by Inc42+ estimates.