Subodh Kumar co-founded with the vision of giving a voice to India’s billion-plus people. The company’s speech-to-text API enables fast and accurate speech recognition, converting audio, either from a microphone or from a file, to text in nine Indian languages. “While a big share of the population knows how to use platforms such as Whats­App, they face the challenge of communicating/typing in English. We aspire to enable every Indian to be able to talk to their devices, to businesses and the government in their native language,” he says. To this end, is forging partnerships with large device makers, the government and companies with large customer bases.

As CEO, Kumar oversees the company’s sales, finance, marketing, hiring and business partnerships. However, there were multiple challenges that he and his co-founders faced when they started out. Since several instruments were not manufactured in India, importing them within reasonable time frames was a challenge. Collecting large amounts of data, a necessary requirement for capturing accent intricacies, was another challenge. Getting the right set of people in India was also a challenge since most of our talent gets exported. “Initially, Indian companies were sceptical about experimenting with new technologies. However, this attitude is now changing; companies are realising the significance of speech and AI, and how this would be the main medium of interaction for their devices and businesses. Currently, there is a shortage of talent in the AI domain, but the supply-side scenario is changing rapidly.”

Kumar is a computer science graduate from IIT Kharagpur and has a business degree from IIM Bangalore. He initially joined Citigroup as an investment banker and later moved to Microsoft before embarking on the journey to start Kumar believes in hiring the most capable people and giving them the independence they need. He also believes that failure is allright, provided one learns from it.

Kumar is grateful to his parents for inculcating values such as honesty and integrity in him. “They ensured that education is a key priority for me and my siblings,” he adds. Although work leaves him with little spare time, he is trying to get back to playing badminton and tennis, and to working out. He loves reading books on AI and related technologies. He also likes to travel and tries to take a vacation at least once a year, his most recent being a holiday in New Zealand.