Bengaluru-based startup Yellow Messenger is one of the companies in India that's exploring conversational commerce through bots. You tell the bot to show you shoes and then continue the conversation by asking for men's shoes, or women's, and so on. Yellow Messenger is just one of the startups in India that's making use of Microsoft's Cognitive Services.
These are a collection of APIs that allow systems to use natural language processing to hear, see, speak, understand and interpret the needs of users. Cognitive Services were one of the tools that Microsoft demonstrated in Pune, at its Build 2016 tour event on Friday.
Build is an event for Windows developers, where Microsoft showcases all the tools developers can use to make Windows apps. With over 40 percent of Microsoft's cloud platform Azure's revenue coming from ISVs (Independent Software Ventures) and startups, the focus of the keynote was naturally on reaching out to them.
"When developers want to do machine learning, when they want to use bots, we want them to think about us," Jeffrey Burtoft, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, said during the keynote. The purpose behind using bots is to have conversations without having a human on the other end. Microsoft's Cognitive Services work on services such as Skype, Web, Slack, Facebook Messenger, among others.
Harish Vaidyanathan, Director of ISV Business at Microsoft, added to this, talking about the work Microsoft is doing to bring these tools to India. "Not all conversations are in English. This is India right? Being able to do multilingual conversations in one stroke [is one of Yellow Messenger's key features]," he added. Vaidyanathan said Yellow Messenger can also do other things, like take a picture and say, 'Show me something like this.' "Those are some of the things that Yellow Messenger does. It's already live on Facebook, Telegram, and Skype," he said.
He also talked about how India can use the Internet of Things to address seasonal demand of resources. "If you think of Indians, we're very aspirational. We want everything but we don't want to buy everything we want," Vaidyanathan said.
He explained this with the example of another company, called iBot. The minimum price of a Eureka Forbes Aquaguard water purifier is around Rs. 8,500, which is a bit too high for quite a few people. "What iBot enabled, is that you can take Aquaguard and use it on a prepaid basis. This is pure water, as a service. People pay for what they use," he said, adding that the sensor is connected to Microsoft's cloud platform.
Burtoft said Azure has 30 data centres around the world, which is more than both Amazon and Google. Three of these data centres are in India, one of which is in Pune. Highlighting the importance of Microsoft cloud in the Indian market, he said 50 percent of the top 100 companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) use Microsoft cloud services. Globally, he said, Azure gets over 120,000 new subscriptions every month, and over two trillion messages per week are processed by Azure IoT.
After holding the Build 2016 conference in San Francisco earlier this year, the company has been taking the conference to various parts of the world. The Pune leg of the Build 2016 tour was attended by over 600 developers from India.
On the consumer side, Burtoft said Windows 10 is Microsoft's most successful version of Windows with over 300 million active users. He also showed Project Centennial, Microsoft's bid to get more apps on its Windows Store. This makes it easy for developers to port their Win32 apps to the Windows Store and to monetise these apps through the store. Burtoft said the Windows 10 Store has had over 5 billion visits since its launch and Project Centennial will help users find safe (virus-free) copies of the apps they want to download. "It's becoming harder and harder to get Win32 apps [to find a safe, malware-free download]," he said.
Disclosure: Microsoft India sponsored the correspondent's travel for this event.