Kartik Sharma and Ashish Aggarwal, co-founders of DcodeAI, recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as a part of its special series NewsX India A-List and talked about their mission of equipping India’s next generation of learners with Artificial Intelligence.
Talking about his personal journey and how DcodeAI came about, Kartik said, “I have been passionate enthusiast about AI, IOT, these emerging technologies for the last two years or so. We have been developing a lot of products and solutions for corporates and educational institutions, using chat bots and robotic process automation etc. But recently, I got more and more interested in the education of AI because even when you have to hire people to develop products on AI, there is a dearth of skilled people available in Artificial Intelligence not only in our country but around the world. So, we thought let’s fix this bigger problem- if we’re able to create a pipeline of people who are AI-ready and AI-empowered, that would solve a host of problems. I started writing books on AI for schools and that’s how I came together and met my co-founder Ashish, who comes from a publishing background and we developed an instant liking for each other. We started working and brainstorming that apart from books, what else can we do to create an AI-ready future for our country. In a meeting, we started developing small content and solutions; we started doing webinars on AI for teachers around the country. In short span of time, we got a community of almost 1000+ teachers who got connected with us and they pushed us to create something to help them teach AI to their students. And here we are in short span of six months, we have created a product which all educators and anyone who wants to learn AI can use. We essentially are on our mission of democratising Artificial Intelligence.”
When asked about what sets DcodeAI apart from the other EdTech companies, Kartik replied, “I personally believe that others watching this as well, there is a buzz around learning coding, developing computational thought process and algorithmic thinking, that’s all good but with Artificial Intelligence as most of you are aware of; AI can be generative. With AI, you know it can create code on its own and you do not need to explicitly code anything. The way we look at AI is not an incremental innovation, we look at it as a leap of innovation. It is going to completely disrupt and transform the way people do their jobs, people learn their skills and our mission is to future-proof young learners by teaching them AI. With AI, they may not need to learn coding from scratch. We have a host of low code, no code tools and we actually use AI to teach AI using chat bots and personalised learning elements in the entire product. Our genesis is that we are not taking an incremental approach on helping them learn coding and then making them develop apps etc, but we are fundamentally changing their way of thinking and making them think from an AI perspective, so that whatever product or solution they may choose to build in the future, its context-aware and suited to a world, which is going to be completely transformed using AI.”
“You do not need to have a heavy computational GPU, you do not need to know coding; there are a host of simple step-by-step low code tools available on the platform which can make anyone learn AI. So, democratising AI for everyone, democratising AI for all, which is Niti Aayog’s mission is what we firmly believe in.” he added.
Talking about their business priorities as the company is concerned, Ashish said, “At the present time, the priority is to scale up the platform, get the product ready for schools and teachers because teachers are eagerly waiting for this product to come up. We’re really trying to get that product fine-tuned so that when the training of teachers starts, we can anticipate the kinds of questions they will be asking us because we come from an education background and are backed by Sultanchand & Sons Pvt. Ltd., a leading educational publishing house. We know how teachers think, how schools work and we also know what kinds of problems they will face when starting a new subject as complex as Artificial Intelligence. Right now, our heart and soul are into getting this product out and available to all schools and teachers.”
Speaking about how India startups need to take a lead in this field, Kartik said, “I am the living testimony of this problem statement. I was a startup that was building AI products and solutions, and I had a hard time hiring people. I couldn’t even get interns to train and upscale to AI because they have no background and that’s what got me into AI skilling in this first place. I was recently reading a report by a leading organisation that said, ‘Almost 40% of job openings in AI are vacant around the world.’ Here we are talking about unemployment due to the pandemic and, on the other side, there’s an area of work (AI), in which there are more jobs available than people. The average starting salary of an AI employee is more than 8 lakh per-annum. So, here is a beautiful, lucrative opportunity for people to upscale themselves and at the same time for industry with advent of chat bots and robotic process automation-enabled tools, which we all use like Alexa, Siri to converse with them. More and more businesses are using AI tools to transform business, save costs and provide a 24×7 superior customer experience. They need extensive support from skilled people in AI and that’s where we step in to fill that gap. A big part of what we’re trying to do is tying up with industry partners so that people who want to learn AI on the platform, do not do so only for theoretical purposes. These people can be placed onto industry projects, they can work on live projects, internship, apprenticeship and they can even get a job on our platform. What we’re trying to do is make people not only skilled but employment ready for AI and then help the industry get the right talent and also creating micro-learning paths within AI. AI has got data sciences, computer vision, also meta-tagging various components of AI so the industry can get the right talent within AI, which they are looking for. Nobody in the world right now is solving this problem so we are really ambitious in taking on this project.”
Sharing their vision for the platform in the next 5 years, Ashish said, “This is an extremely ambitious project. We want to be the go-to platform for not only students to learn new technology, AI, we want to cater to other up and coming technology as well. Not only that, we want to be a talent platform for the industry who are looking for people with such high skills. We also want to be the go-to hiring platform where you can find those talented people who have learned at DcodeAI and developed skills with us, so that it is easy for them to go to the right people and get started on the solutions that they want to provide.”
On a parting note, the duo addressed people who want to learn at DcodeAI but are too overwhelmed to do so. Kartik said, “In the future, people assume AI will take up their job. It is not between AI versus humans, it’s about people who know AI versus people who don’t, because people who don’t know will become irrelevant. This is the right time to upscale yourselves and DcodeAI is there for your support and back up on this AI journey.” To which, Ashish added, “If I coming from a non-technical background can start learning AI with this tool and these modules, then it’s the perfect platform for people with no coding experience.”