Empowering entrepreneurs in emerging markets: How AI could be your next business partner

Have you always secretly dreamed of being an entrepreneur but the scale of things have kept you daunted? 2023 has changed this perspective for would-be entrepreneurs. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is emerging as a transformative force, helping everyday entrepreneurs in emerging markets turn their dreams into successful businesses. 

This paradigm shift is particularly evident in countries like India, where AI is playing a pivotal role in fostering innovation and creating opportunities for ambitious individuals to launch and grow their ventures.

“AI is already proving to be an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs in emerging markets,” says Mike Hoey, President of Source Meridian, a US company that works in emerging markets as well. 

He cites the example of the healthcare industry in India, where 30% of the population lacks health insurance, while the shortage of qualified medical practitioners has increased by 200%. 

“Entrepreneurs therefore have a prime opportunity to innovate solutions for tangible gaps in the market such as AI-powered medical chatbots that help primary medical centers cope with high patient demand and staff shortages,” he says.

In fact, many startup companies say that programs like ChatGPT could complete doctors’ paperwork for them. For example, last year, Indian company Thyrocare, a preventive healthcare diagnosis platform,  adopted AI-powered technology to automate the manual microscopy process across its network.

Garry Paxinos, CTO at NT Connect, says that the transformative impact of AI extends beyond traditional business practices, positively influencing economic development in these regions. 

“AI enables automation of routine tasks, allowing entrepreneurs to focus on more strategic aspects of their business. In emerging markets where resources may be limited, AI-driven automation can significantly increase operational efficiency,” he says.

According to an Inc42 report titled India’s Generative AI Startup Landscape, 2023, India’s GenAI market is projected to see great days in the next few years, surpassing US$17 billion by 2030 from US$1.1 Bn in 2023, growing at a CAGR of 48%.

Danish Ahmed, founder of startuptools.ai, says that the development of AI has created a transformative opportunity for entrepreneurs in developing economies such as India. 

“AI’s ability to automate allows new businesses to operate with greater efficiency and agility. This democratization of access to valuable tools and information levels the playing field, allowing companies to compete effectively against established players,” he says.

The Rise of AI-Powered Entrepreneurship

AI technologies are proving to be indispensable for entrepreneurs at various stages of their business journey. From ideation and market research to customer engagement and operational efficiency, AI is streamlining processes, providing valuable insights, and even automating routine tasks, allowing entrepreneurs to focus on strategic aspects of their ventures.

Sundeep Reddy Mallu, Head of ESG and Analytics at Gramener, says the cost of taking an idea to a customer-facing offering has shrunk to one tenth with AI tools.

“Entrepreneurs across emerging markets have new, trusted co-founders in the form of AI tools. AI allows them to compete globally with minimal investment in time or resources. AI tools help in creating business value with enhanced efficiency and productivity,” he says.

For example, Ramsri Golla, an AI Developer and bootstrapped entrepreneur launched Supermeme.ai with his two friends, becoming a stellar example of an AI-assisted meme generator from the input text across 110 languages.

One of the key areas where AI is making a significant impact is in market research. Entrepreneurs can now leverage AI-driven tools to analyze vast amounts of data, gaining insights into market trends, consumer behavior, and competitive landscapes. This enables them to make informed decisions and tailor their products or services to meet the specific needs of their target audience.

“AI-powered educational platforms can make learning more accessible and personalized, helping entrepreneurs acquire new skills and knowledge. AI is beneficial in emerging markets, where traditional and out-dated education systems may face legacy challenges and need a technology leapfrogging,” Paxinos says.

AI as Your Virtual Business Partner

Imagine having a virtual business partner that works 24/7, providing real-time support and insights. AI is fulfilling this role for many entrepreneurs, acting as a virtual assistant that handles tasks ranging from customer inquiries and order processing to data analysis and financial management.

For instance, AI-powered chatbots are becoming increasingly popular among small businesses in India. According to a Business Insider report, messaging apps have surpassed social networks in customer experience. Clearly, people prefer chats over calls. Last week, entrepreneur and actress Sunny Leone, in partnership with Generative AI company Kamoto.AI, launched her official AI Replica.

“AI-powered chatbots eliminate the need to create exhaustive operating procedures and intensive training of support staff to respond to repetitive customer queries. Chatbots don’t rest; this enables small businesses to provide round-the-clock automated customer service,” explains Mallu.

Small businesses really have no choice but to adopt this new technology if they want to maintain a competitive edge, or at the very least keep up. For example, last year, Vianai Systems, a human-centered AI (H+AI™) platform and products company, tied up with KPMG India to put conversational AI directly into the hands of finance users with their hila Enterprise.

In fact, according to Tracxn data, India had 556 chatbot startups last year, which include Gupshup, Wysa, Uniphore, [24]7.ai, and Haptik.

“As AI technology continues to advance and become more accessible, more and more businesses of all sizes will integrate AI chatbots into their platforms to improve operational efficiency and customer experiences. Small businesses understand the value of following this trend,” says Nate MacLeitch, CEO of QuickBlox.

Success Stories from India

Several startups in India are exemplifying the transformative potential of AI for entrepreneurs. Whether it’s food delivery startups like Swiggy and Zomato, or ride-sharing startup Ola and EdTech startup Byju’s, all are leveraging AI. Other small businesses are Razorpay, a fintech startup that uses AI for fraud detection and Niramai, a healthtech startup that focuses on early breast cancer detection with AI-based thermal imaging. Also, AI has been transforming India’s ecommerce startups like Zevame, Nykaa, and Caratlane. 

A good example is CaseText, a software provider for legal research and creator of an AI co-pilot called CoCounsel. Developed in a partnership with OpenAI and trained on the latest version of its GPT large language model as well as their own proprietary legal database and search system, the startup was purchased by Thomson Reuters for US$650 million in August 2023. 

Another good example of a startup which experienced large growth with AI is Jasper.AI, which reached US$42.5 million in ARR (annual recurring revenue) in the first 12 months of its launch. Jasper is a content creation platform using the Chat GPT-3.5 language model to generate content for an AI marketing co-pilot. 

Each of these startup companies experienced fast growth after adopting AI as a core part of their business offerings.

The Future of Entrepreneurship

As AI continues to evolve, its role in shaping the future of entrepreneurship in emerging markets becomes increasingly significant. Entrepreneurs who embrace AI technologies stand to gain a competitive edge, as these tools not only enhance efficiency but also unlock new possibilities for innovation and growth.

Ahmed believes that the future of AI and small businesses in emerging markets holds immense potential, characterized by hyper-personalization and efficiency. “We can imagine a future where AI-driven marketing campaigns precisely target local communities, tailoring offerings to specific needs and preferences. In addition, AI-driven supply chains can anticipate disruptions and optimize logistics in real time, improving operational resilience and profitability. This convergence of the physical and digital, promises to revolutionize the business landscape in emerging markets, empowering small businesses to compete on a global scale,” he explains.

MacLeitch says that the advancement of AI in emerging markets creates a unique opportunity for the future. “I think there are some similarities with the explosion in the use of mobile phones where emerging markets bypassed the need for landlines and the telco infrastructure of the more mature economies; the mobile phone became a means to communicate and transact in the economy,” he says.

“AI can be a great leveller in its capabilities to enable business to make processes more efficient and bypass more manual processes. Building businesses with AI integrated into the business goals and leveraging new technologies enables emerging markets to develop more rapidly. India’s deep expertise in software and IT positions it well to participate in this evolution,” he predicts.

AI is not just a tool, it can be your next business partner, propelling your venture to new heights. If you have that dream of launching a small business while aspiring to a big goal, you should consider harnessing the power of AI to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and unlock the full potential of your innovative ideas. The partnership between human creativity and AI is a recipe for success in the dynamic world of business.

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