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March 2018 Citi GPS: Global Perspectives & Solutions © 2018 Citigroup 29 Interview with Active.Ai: Ravi Shankar About Active.AI Active.AI is a Singapore-based FinTech that is focused on using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to deliver conversational banking services. The company has built an advanced, proprietary conversational AI platform that connects consumers with their banks via micro conversation. Their AI platform can be deployed for financial institutions, insurance companies, and capital markets. About Ravi Shankar Ravi Shankar is the co-founder and CEO of Active.Ai. He was an investor and board member/ advisor at Emvantage Payments (Exit to Amazon) and MRL Posnet (Exit to Atos WorldLine) .He also co-founded Nevales Networks Pvt Ltd. in January 2010. Prior to that, he worked as Group Executive Vice President of Yes Bank. He was VP & Head of Non Branch Delivery channels of ABN AMRO Bank. He started his career in HDFC Bank. Q: Tell us about the genesis of Active.Ai? We started the company in early 2016. I did a trip to China in mid-2015, looking at how financial services were being delivered, and knew China was making huge strides in using AI and the latest technologies to enable financial services. It was fascinating to see how China got there. By the end of 2015, it was clear that the “mobile first” model for financial services, built from China, was going to be disruptive and take on the world. Everything was changing: messaging became ubiquitous, unstructured mobile data use significantly increased. China made progress and used messaging platforms whereby people were getting connected to people and then businesses. WeChat set the stage in financial services by using messaging as a connected highway, first to people and then to institutions, and then became a financial services player. The pace of this execution was something never seen before. We saw that a large majority of the incumbents would be caught on the wrong foot, as they didn’t see this technology come in as they were dependent on third parties for their technology. Incumbents were exposed to a new competitor – mobile-first companies with lot of capital, bringing new technology and engaged consumers. This was the gap we saw in the market and the genesis for Active.Ai. Q: Why do you think China became so advanced? Why are these messaging platforms, such as Tenpay in China or WhatsApp in India, so powerful? The average time mobile users spend on apps was increasing significantly since 2013. In the West, it was a lot about Facebook, or e-commerce, but the rails were different. Social and commerce didn't intersect. In China, by mid-2014, the shift was visible and different. Messaging just took off; it was very clear something very different was happening in China. In China, it was mobile messaging and a lot more commerce within messaging, and this was making money and adding an enormous number of users. Surging mobile commerce forced Tencent and Alibaba into making early investments in AI – transport, big data, robots, and payments.
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