AI-based chatbot Niki.ai has raised $2 Mn Series A funding from the global leader in business management software SAP and existing investor Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures.
With this, SAP has commenced investing in India. The investment was done via SAP’s newly launched $35 Mn artificial intelligence-focussed fund SAP.iO in March 2017. The funding round also saw participation from other Indian investors including Haresh Chawla (Partner at True North) and Arihant Patni, along with some US and German investors.
Ram Jambunathan, Managing Director, SAP.iO said “We believe that Niki.ai has an innovative technical approach and is building a scalable product that can change the commerce industry. We are very impressed with how Niki.ai is leveraging AI to help businesses fulfill the needs of consumers. There is a huge opportunity globally yet to be captured and the investment will fuel next level of growth for Niki.ai.”
The startup will use the new capital to further strengthen its machine learning capabilities, building voice and multilingual functionalities. Apart from this, the money will be used to expand the distribution network.
Bengaluru-based Niki.ai was founded in April 2015 by four IIT Kharagpur alumni – Shishir Modi, Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, and Nitin Babel. Niki.ai is an AI-powered shopping assistant. Through its chatbot SDK, it leverages the technology of natural language processing and machine learning to converse with the customers over a chat interface, to shop for products and services.
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Sachin Jaiswal, CEO, Niki.ai said, “We want to provide consumers with multiple touch points to access Niki. With our SDK being deployed across platforms (Android, iOS, Web, Messaging apps) by banks, OEMs, wallets & startups; we move a step closer to our vision of being ubiquitous. The current fund raise will be utilised to further strengthen our distribution.”
Niki supports over 20 categories including entertainment, travel, daily utilities, with partners such as BookMyShow, Redbus, OYO, Ola, Uber, JustRechargeIt, etc.
Users can search, discover, choose, make payments, and complete transactions within the Niki.ai app. In May 2016, Ratan Tata invested an undisclosed amount in the startup, along with Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures that did a follow-up round to the first seed investment.
The company claims to have a 35% month-on-month revenue growth, and about 50+ partners on board. On the customer front, the company has more than 400K customers using Niki.
As per an ET report, SAP.iO is looking at an investment ticket size of about $10,000 to $250K. The fund is aiming to close 10-15 deals this year, while next year it will aim for 20-25 deals.
In June 2016, SAP launched its Incubation centre at Bengaluru to incubate early-stage startups. It is a 12-month accelerator programme under which, apart from providing financial support to startups, it will provide space, access to technology infrastructure, mentoring and business consulting. It is focussed on Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data domains, retail and healthcare segments.
At the time, the company had also selected seven startups for its initial programme. Niki.ai was one of the selected startups.
In April 2017, Delhi-based artificial intelligence startup Innefu Labs raised $2 Mn Series A funding from IndiaNivesh Venture Capital Fund. In January 2017, Delhi-based Kratikal, an end-to-end cyber security solution provider, raised an undisclosed amount of Seed funding from Amajit Gupta (former director of Microsoft India) along with Praveen Dubey (co-founder Mutual PR) and J.P. Bhatt (co-founder and Chief Executive of ImpactQA). Other startups that compete with Niki.ai include Arya.ai, Retention.ai, Active.AI, among others.
Update (June 28, 2017) 3:02 pm – The story has been updated to reflect funding amount, names of investors and other details.