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News : Banking on the Speech Interface
June, 2014 -- In 2006, Umesh Sachdev and Ravi Saraogi, batchmates at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida, started experimenting with a mobile theft security product, before starting a company called Singularis Technologies. After the company won a few global competitions and a few contracts, the Delhi-based duo decided to delve deep into this field, giving up offers from software services companies.
In 2008, they started speech-based solutions firm Uniphore Software Systems.
Today, Uniphore provides integration of speech recognition and voice biometrics with smart mobile technology, to deliver solutions on the cloud. The company has developed two cloud-based platforms - VoiceNet, which is designed for feature phones and provides human-like conversations using interactive voice response, multilingual speech recognition and voice biometrics; and text-to-speech, giving birth to a voice communications platform.
"We got in touch with Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M)'s Ashok Jhunjhunwala, a renowned academician who plays a role in government policymaking and is on the board of some companies," recalls Sachdev, chief executive of Uniphore. "He introduced us to the institute's incubation centre, Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI)."
After a few visits to IIT-M and interactions with entrepreneurs there, Sachdev and Saraogi decided to shift to Chennai.
However, RTBI was only focused on facilitating rural-inclusive technology and business innovation. "So, we came up with the idea that vernacular voice would be the easiest medium to reach the rural market. Even an illiterate person with a low-cost phone could dial a number, speak to a computer and find information or make a transaction - that's how the roots of Uniphore were laid," says Sachdev.
Jhunjhunwala says, "Uniphore is an innovative young company, providing fascinating mobile-based solutions, developed in partnership with IIT-M. Uniphore will continue making a significant difference in speech and mobility space."
From a manually operated call centre for villagers in Tamil Nadu to resolving issues using the local language, Uniphore gradually evolved into technology-led voice-based solutions provider.
Initially, Uniphore received seed funding from investors, including RTBI and National Research Development Corporation. With the company turning profitable since the second year of operations, Sachdev and Saraogi didn't see the need to raise more funds.
However, as the company considered expanding globally, it raised an undisclosed sum from a consortium of investors in March this year. These funds will primarily be used to enter Southeast Asia and West Asia. Uniphore will also seek to strengthen its speech-based products and create more context-based and personalised applications.
Nagaraja Prakasam, mentor & investor, Indian Angel Network, says, "Continuing on our theme on backing inclusive innovations, we are optimistic of the success of Uniphore, which has already completed six successful years. In a country of 1.2 billion people, where only 250 million speak English, vernacular speech recognition can enable financial inclusion and information dissemination to farmers. Uniphore is also a great example of solving the problems of a billion people and this opens opportunities for another four billion in emerging nations. We feel the passion Umesh and Ravi bring along, as well as their domain knowledge and expertise, makes all this possible."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Uniphore Software Systems:
Uniphore is a voice-based solutions provider, has pioneered the development of mobile applications with the combined capabilities of Speech Recognition, Voice Biometrics, and Data.
Published: Monday, July 7, 2014