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Voicebot startup for enterprises Vernacular.ai raises Series A funding
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Vernacular.ai, which offers a multilingual artificial intelligence (AI) platform for businesses, has raised $5.1 million (Rs 38 crore) in its Series A round of funding led by Exfinity Ventures and IAN Fund.

Existing backer Kalaari Capital, AngelList and LetsVenture also participated in the round, Vernacular.ai said in a statement.

The Bengaluru-based company will use the funds to expand into Southeast Asia and the US and boost its research and development to further enhance its proprietary AI-based voice automation platform.

“With situations like the one we are in today, contingency plans have significantly increased dependency on voice automation, and we feel well placed to serve this need, globally,” Sourabh Gupta, co-founder at Vernacular.ai, said.

Founded in 2016 by IIT-Roorkee graduates Gupta, Akshay Deshraj and Manoj Sarda, Vernacular.ai automates the customer service operations of businesses through the use of natural language processing (NLP) technology in Indian languages through AI-based voice automation platform named VIVA. This enables companies to interact and engage with their customers in the languages preferred by them. 

The platform claims to be recognized over 160 dialects in 10 different Indian languages to support the enterprise user base. 

“Social distancing and digitization are key in the “new normal” and Vernacular help enterprises to engage and much more effectively and efficiently with their customers,” said IAN Fund co-founder Raman Roy, who has also been nominated on the company's board.

In May 2017, the company raised an undisclosed amount of funding from KStart Capital, the seed programme run by venture capital firm Kalaari Capital.

Deals in the vernacular segment

Investor attraction to startups serving content and services in regional languages has grown, with companies seeking to move their core audience beyond Tier-I and Tier-II locations. Firms across sectors have received funding.

In January this year, Instoried Research Labs Pvt. Ltd, which runs an artificial intelligence-driven tech content startup, raised funding from US-based venture capital firm SOSV and its Chinese arm Chinaccelerator.

In November last year, regional language news aggregator and classifieds platform Lokal raised $3 million (around Rs 21.20 crore) in funding from a clutch of investors, including the Bengaluru-based 3one4 Capital and the US-based seed investor Y Combinator.

In July, vernacular gaming platform WinZO raised $5 million (around Rs 34.46 crore) in its Series A funding round led by an early-stage VC firm Kalaari Capital and messaging platform Hike.

In the same month, Bengaluru-based Headfone raised $750,000 (around Rs 5.15 crore) in seed funding from Fosun RZ Capital, the VC arm of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International.

Prior to that, in June, vernacular self-publishing e-platform Pratilipi raised $15 million (around Rs 104 crore) in a Series B round led by the China-based Qiming Venture Partners. Nexus Venture Partners, Omidyar Network India, Shunwei Capital, Contrarian Vriddhi Fund and WEH Ventures had also participated in the round.

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