Microsoft logo is seen in a Microsoft store
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Microsoft launches AI Innovate to empower AI startups in India

India, with the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem, offered opportunities for transforming enterprises to uplift innovation across industries using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Microsoft has introduced a startup program called AI Innovate, as well as an AI Playbook, to ensure that start-ups in the country get exposure to reliable AI resources, collaborations, as well as assistance to use AI at scale.

Microsoft logo is seen in a Microsoft store
Courtesy: John Smith via Getty Images

According to Microsoft, the goal of Microsoft AI Innovate was to bring together startups, corporations, industry institutions, governments, and venture capital firms to develop shared infrastructure for learning and innovation. This 10-week initiative would assist Indian startups using AI technologies in scaling operations, driving innovation, and developing industry expertise.

The launch phase, which will be supported by TiE Mumbai, will commence in November 2021. The first phase will concentrate on manufacturing and logistics, while the second will concentrate on fintech firms.

According to the tech giant, both B2B and B2C startups from a variety of industries, comprising financial services, healthcare, education, agriculture, space, manufacturing and logistics, retail, and e-commerce, will be welcomed to join the program.

Sangeeta Bavi, Director of Startup Ecosystem at Microsoft India, commented on the development saying, “Microsoft AI Innovate will create an engaging platform to empower startups with opportunities to build, scale and transform with agility.”

The program would also allow startups to connect out to more customers and regions by leveraging Microsoft’s sales and partner networks. Acknowledging that India has the world’s third-largest AI startup ecosystem, Microsoft India president Anant Maheshwari remarked at the AI Innovate virtual conference saying, “AI adoption can add more than $90 billion to the Indian economy by 2035.”

The AI Innovate program, according to Maheshwari, promises to empower startups to accomplish impactful innovation at scale. It will benefit them in developing business and industry perspectives in AI, creating meaningful simulations in partnership with Microsoft industry research and engineering professionals, providing opportunities for mentorship from unicorn founders, and future-proofing skilling in AI and Machine Learning (ML). Adding further he said, “This is just a series of programs and interventions that will serve startups as they begin their AI journey.”

The program will categorize startups into three groups based on their size, funding, and workaround status, with the program’s incentives varying accordingly. The first category involves all start-ups that have been approved for Seed to Series B funding. Start-ups offering enterprise-ready solutions are featured in the second category. The third category is targeted to facilitate startups in visualizing their ideas with the assistance of industry professionals. The plan is to create a future-ready solution with the help of AI professionals and partner experts, then assess if it can be improved.

Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have been diligent in recognizing and nurturing young startups, as well as giving them launchpads to scale up their ideas. Microsoft had already volunteered in two similar programs for agri-tech and health tech startups prior to AI Innovate. Similarly, Amazon, through the AWS Activate program, provides low-cost, simple-to-use cloud infrastructure to startups.