Asheesh Mehra, Co-Founder and Group CEO, AntWorks, believes in the power of ethical AI while delivering the maximum value to customers.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is changing the way organizations have operated in the past. But studies have shown that RPA vendors that focused only on automating repetitive tasks are less likely to survive as stand-alone vendors compared to more sophisticated platforms. The latter calls upon various AI-ML technologies to add contextual awareness of unstructured interactions toward desired outcomes.
To addresses the gap in the existing RPA technologies in the market, AntWorks, an intelligent automation provider, has come up with an entirely new technology category, touted as Integrated Automation Platform (IAP) that is set to disrupt the traditional RPA industry. Founded in 2015 by Asheesh Mehra, a former employee of Infosys, and industry veteran Govind Sandhu, Antworks is headquartered in Singapore and has offices in India.
“We know the possibilities are endless for AI to solve some of the greatest challenges faced by enterprises, and the world today. Hence we wanted to bring a new perspective on how business processes should be looked at as end-to-end and not as a single business process,” says Asheesh Mehra, Co-Founder and Group CEO, AntWorks, adding that the company’s mission is to manifest the power of ethical AI while delivering the maximum value to customers.”
The startup claims that its ANTstein SQUARE, launched last year, is the industry’s first IAP, powered by fractal science, a multi-tenancy solution that allows for maximum bot utilization, understands all types of data, and provides customers with a one-stop solution for data curation and building, deploying and managing an AI-enabled smart digital workforce.
IAP leverages the potential of fractal science is an offshoot of AI that can help companies solve the unstructured data challenge. “Customers benefit from this because smaller data sets mean higher accuracy, less infrastructure and quicker training time. First-generation neural technology-based RPA solutions require much bigger data sets,” says Mehra.
Mehra uses an example to substantiate the kind of work they are doing in the industry. “In the case of a big 4 audit client, by automating, reading and reconciling financial statements, the average processing time for tax computation has been reduced from 2 hours to 30 min, with a significant reduction of human intervention. There has also been a 100% increase in productivity, visibility, and accuracy, as well as 360-degree visibility across documents,” he says.
Their efforts paid well in 2018, when AntWorks secured its Series ‘A’ funding of $15 Mn from Japan’s SBI holdings. In Mehra’s own words, “There has been no looking back after that.”
He informs that in 2019 the company achieved quite a few milestones through a range of activities and announcements. The company increased its global presence across Australia, Canada, Dubai, France, India (Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai), Japan, Philippines, Singapore, UK and US.
“We now have strength of over 500 people, and have nearly tripled our headcount since 2018, stacking talent against key strategic growth areas,” Mehra says.
Last year, AntWorks also scored a remarkable milestone of a joint venture with SBI Neo Financial Services to establish SBI Antworks Asia in Japan, providing intelligent automation solutions to the East Asia and Southeast Asia markets. Additionally, to enable accelerated adoption of AI in the GCC region, AntWorks recently announced a partnership with the SEED Group.
It’s about ethical AI
Mehra is particularly bullish on ethical AI. He says, AI is a powerful technology, and, as we know, with great power comes great responsibility. While the technology clearly has amazing benefits, it also comes with challenges, such as AI bias, and AI terrorism. With the advent of the new decade this is where challenges await enterprises, government institutions and legal organizations as they tackle the larger issues that can arise from misuse of the technology. We refer to that responsibility as ethical AI.
“This is one of the principles that drives AntWorks.We believe that the widespread realization of ethical AI requires participation from both businesses and governments to address and ensure AI accountability. It calls for technology providers to limit the carbon footprints of their AI solutions. In addition, ethical AI relies on the ability of AI solutions to enable auditability and traceability,” says Mehra.
He adds that businesses and governments need to address AI accountability, ensuring people use AI engines as intended and not for fraudulent or other malicious pursuits. Technology vendors should be held to the highest standard of responsibility for ensuring an ethical approach to the design and application of AI products and services. Technology providers also must educate their teams and partners on appropriate and inappropriate uses of AI.
Mehra believes that some people are unaware of the power of AI engines and their potential for misuse. With the right education, such individuals can learn about the risks and how to avoid them. Education is a big horizontal component that will cut across every aspect of an AI journey and will go a long way towards contributing to ethical AI.
RPA and CIO challenges
Mehra believes that while RPA market has a huge growth projection, more than 40% of RPA projects fail to deliver expectations due to factors such as implementation time or cost and its benefits to analytics. The challenges are that businesses, who have been using these technologies have fallen behind on their ability to deliver end-to-end business processing.
“There are various points of confusion when it comes to RPA. Despite companies knowing the benefits of the technology, they don’t always know when to start RPA deployment or what data they should be analysing within their organisations to yield maximum ROI. It’s often the latter issue that has become somewhat of a barrier in adopting RPA,” explains Mehra. Although the AI and automation industry could be worth $5tn by 2025, it can only be as good as the data it runs on. One possible alternative to traditional RPA that can not only match its functionality but also offer more is Cognitive Machine Reading (CMR), an AI-based automation capability.
Secondly, companies are often reticent to innovate simply because they are sceptical about the real financial benefits and ROI of being the first mover to adopt technological solutions. An example is the Financial services industry whereby it is constantly under pressure to innovate.
According to Mehra, financial services and banking are industries where a huge variety of datasets exist. Intelligent automation is expected to add $512 billion in global revenue to this sector, but this can only be achieved when finance executives take the initiative to automate their processes with IAP.
The power of AI
In today’s age of digital disruption, startups are increasingly leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as AI, ML and IoT to impact businesses across verticals and their operations. According to Mehra with the dawn of a new decade we will see startups deeply involved in real world operations, developing global products and catering to a whole new market such as space, renewable energy, materials science among others.
“When AntWorks decided to enter the market, we were very clear that there was no point building non-scalable RPA tools, which cannot address the unstructured data challenge enterprises face. In contrast, AntWorks’ proprietary technology uses fractal science and pattern recognition to read and ingest every data type,” he says .
The company intends to support organizations by leveraging AI to continue to enhance customer satisfaction and use the power of AI to uncover the large unstructured data challenge existing not only across enterprises, but also in the government sector.
“In the next decade, it will be hard to find an industry not utilizing AI to intelligently automate business processes through Integrated Automation Platforms,” sums up Mehra.