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Exclusive: Ratan Tata-backed AI chatbot Niki to shut down ops

Conversational artificial intelligence platform Niki (Niki.ai) is shutting down operations, according to two sources aware of the development. This development comes several months after the Bengaluru-based startup had announced its overseas expansion plans in February.

Niki used to provide a virtual assistant that allows people to transact online through voice command across four languages: Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and English.

“Niki.ai has discontinued its services for the past month due to several reasons including lack of funds,” said one of the sources requesting anonymity. “The company has laid off most of its employees in the past several months.”

The Niki.ai website also throws up an error when one attempts to log in through its website and Android application. Team Entrackr has tried to log in through multiple phone numbers.

Sources say that the plans to shut down also comes after their attempt at getting absorbed by other companies.

“Niki.ai also explored acquisition opportunities with several growth companies but it didn’t manage to strike a deal,” said the person quoted above.

Queries sent to Niki.ai’s co-founders Sachin Jaiswal and Nitin Babel on Monday didn’t elicit any response. We will update the story in case they respond.

Backed by the likes of Ratan Tata, Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures, Haresh Chawla, and Japan’s Recruit Partners, Niki.ai was majorly used to book flight tickets, hotels, cabs and for other tasks such as payment of utility bills on chat and voice interfaces.

Niki.ai has raised around $6 million to date including its last funding round in November 2019. As per a Mint report, the company was also planning to raise $50 million to expand its services and presence.

In February, Niki.ai claimed that it had a Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) run rate of $25 million and the company was expecting it to grow to $1.5 billion by 2022.  

Niki.ai was one of the early evangelizers of the chat-bot business in India along with several others such as Haptik, Lookup and Tapzo. While Haptik emerged as most successful among the list and was acquired by Reliance in a deal worth over $100 million, Sequoia Capital-backed Tapzo also struggled and became a part of Amazon in 2018. Lookup was sold to NowFloats (now a Reliance’s company) in a stress deal.

Niki.ai is yet to file its annual financial report for FY21. It recorded Rs 3.19 crore in revenue from operations in FY20 as compared to Rs 2.44 crore in FY19. The company’s total expenditure also surged from Rs 17.17 crore to Rs 27.04 crore whereas losses increased from Rs 16.24 crore in FY19 to Rs 23.42 crore in FY20.

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