Billionaire Binny Bansal is launching an AI-as-a-service startup that will target global customers, expanding to the fast-growing segment after making a fortune in Indian e-commerce.
Bansal, who co-founded online retailer Flipkart and sold it to Walmart Inc., has hired 15 experts for the venture — mostly artificial intelligence scientists — and plans to quickly add more, according to people familiar with the matter. He wants to offer AI talent, products and services to corporate customers, emulating the business model of outsourcing providers like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and Infosys Ltd., the people said, asking to not be named as the effort isn’t yet public.
The startup’s main operations will be in Bengaluru, and it’s headquartered in Singapore, where it’s in stealth mode for now and will launch its offerings within months, the people said. It also plans to expand to the US, one of the people said.
Companies the world over are looking to harness AI, encouraged by new tools such as the ChatGPT chatbot from Microsoft Corp.-backed OpenAI Inc. That’s resulted in huge demand for AI specialists, and Bansal is looking to tap India’s vast English-speaking, youthful population to train more experts for new types of AI services.
While Bansal is playing his cards close to his vest as to the exact products he plans to offer, he will target the legal and e-commerce industries first, one of the people said. The startup also plans to offer services in the fields of financial services and data science and analytics. It aims to roll out products and services and begin marketing in the second half of 2024.
Bansal, 40, declined to comment.
The billionaire moved to Singapore after selling his Bengaluru-based internet company and now shuttles between the cities. The AI startup will focus on training talent and offering services from India’s smaller cities, where the cost of living is lower.
Bansal and his Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal (no relation) graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and worked at Amazon.com Inc. before quitting in their mid-twenties. They established Flipkart as a more localized online retailer for India, inspired by Amazon, nearly six years before the Seattle giant entered the country’s retail market. Binny went on to become the chief operating officer of Flipkart, and then its chief executive officer, before selling a majority stake in the company to Walmart in 2018 for $16 billion.
Binny gradually sold his entire stake in Flipkart to Walmart, and began investing in tech startups in recent years. He holds shares in Walmart-owned fintech PhonePe Pvt and remains on the board of Flipkart.