Call Center
(Photo: Picture from Pixabay)

Uniphore, a startup based in Chennai, India which specialized in developing conversational artificial intelligence for the call center industry, gathered $51 million in a Series C round of funding. Names that fueled investments in Uniphore include March Capital Partners, Chiratae Ventures, Sistema Asia, CXO Fund, ITP, Iron Pillar, and Patni Family. 

Uniphore, which has offices in the United States, Singapore, and some provinces in India, boasts that its C Series funding has become the largest conversational AI startup has raised so far.

The startup is, therefore, eyeing more market diversifications, targeting more regions in North America. Portions of the money will also go to research and development and in hiring more tech employees both in its local and global offices. 

Umesh Sachdev, who founded Uniphore in 2008 with his friend Ravi Saraogi, said the funds they raised has also become the largest in the deep tech market segment.

He described the achievement as an indication of how conversational AI, which remains to be alien with the majority of the labor force, has now come of age. 

While Sachdev shied away from revealing Uniphore's valuation after the C Series funding, he teased that the startup is now in its closest to earn the title of being a "unicorn."

The term "unicorn" referred to startup which despite being a small enterprise has managed to reach $1 billion valuations. Famous Chinese unicorns are Bytedance and DiDi Chuxing. 

Indeed, Uniphore is one among the growing participants of the global conversation AI market which is estimated to be growing between $4.2 billion in 2019 and $15.7 billion by 2024. 

At the same time, the call center industry, which is the largest market for conversational AI, is now worth about $350 billion. Automation is becoming in demand in the industry as it reduced the cost of hiring people and cut expenses by eliminating lease in bigger office space. 

With such market potential, Uniphore is therefore faced with tough competition in the market. Just recently, another startup, Clinic, raised $52 million which it plans to use in initiatives that will employ its technology in cars and banks. Another startup, LivePerson, acquired Conversable which specializes in AI for food chains, grocery stores, and other retail locations. 

On top of many startups, Uniphore is also facing competition among the major players in the tech industry. The likes of Google, Microsoft, IBM Corporation, Amazon Web Services, Baidu, Oracle, and many more bigwigs are already developing or have deployed their conversation AI software. 

While innovations similar to conversational AI are good news to the tech industry, it is bad news for the labor sector. Experts believed that about 70 percent of companies will adopt AI by 2021. Sachdev, in fact, estimated that the majority of 3.9 million call center workers will be affected as more companies embrace AI.