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PayU-backed lending platform ZestMoney acquires AI startup
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ZestMoney, a lending startup that lets users buy products online on EMI without a credit card, on Thursday announced the acquisition of artificial- intelligence-as-a-service platform PhotographAI for an undisclosed amount.

Bengaluru-based PhotographAI offers computer vision tools that can recognise objects in images.

Chalk Farm Ventures Pvt. Ltd, which is also based in Bengaluru and operates ZestMoney, said that the acquisition will strengthen its capabilities in visual artificial intelligence (AI) and optical character recognition (OCR).

It further said that the acquisition will eventually beef up its automated credit assessment capabilities as well as automated and paperless credit products.

“We are seeing increasingly high levels of demand from consumers in Tier 1 and beyond – customers traditionally under-served by banks and credit cards,” said Lizzie Chapman, co-founder and chief executive of ZestMoney. “Having a completely digital application process and underwriting process is now critical to serve these customers.”

PhotographAI was founded last year by Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi graduates Mikhil Raj and Karan Varshney.

The company essentially offers a technology platform for machine learning (ML) solutions that can be utilised by businesses. PhotographAI says its ML-based solutions extend to use-cases that include image classification, text analytics solutions and video analytics technology.

Its product does away with the need for companies to develop, deploy, and maintain these machine learning solutions, according to PhotographAI’s LinkedIn page.

“The PhotographAI team has developed superior API-based AI solutions that we have been testing for some time in authentication, on-boarding and underwriting,” said Ashish Anantharaman, co-founder and chief technology officer of ZestMoney.

PhotographAI co-founder Raj had earlier co-founded technology services firm Dijkstra Labs. Before that, he had worked had two startups – Curofy and UrbanClap. Co-founder Varshney was earlier part of the engineering vertical at home services firm UrbanClap.

ZestMoney

ZestMoney was founded by finance and technology professionals including former Goldman Sachs executive Chapman, former Merrill Lynch associate Priya Sharma (chief financial officer and chief operating officer) and software engineer Ashish Anantharaman (CTO).

Before starting ZestMoney, the three co-founders worked with UK-based loan company Wonga.com.

ZestMoney lets online shoppers instantly open accounts with banks providing loans. Users can then avail equated monthly instalments (EMIs) to make purchases on sites such as Amazon and Flipkart without having to use a credit card. The startup gathers data from various sources, including credit information bureaus. Even customers who have not taken loans in the past can get a ZestMoney-enabled EMI.

ZestMoney has raised a little over $8 million in funding till date from the likes of payments firm PayU, Ribbit Capital and Omidyar Network, among others, as per data available with VCCEdge, the research arm of News Corp VCCircle.

The firm had in February last year raised $6.5 million (Rs 43.5 crore) in a Series A round led by PayU.

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