Bhavish Aggarwal had started his entrepreneurial journey more than a decade ago and built Ola, which is now India’s largest ride hailing company. He then followed it up with Ola Electric, which is already India’s best-selling electric scooter. And now he’s having a stab at the hottest space in town — Artificial Intelligence.
Bhavish Aggarwal has officially launched his new startup in the AI space. Called Krutrim AI, the company says it is developing “India’s first “full-stack AI solution”. Krutrim will also develop Large Language Models (LLMs) of its own that would be similar to ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, but will be more suited for Indian languages.
“Today, all AI models, called LLMs, are trained largely in English, but language is not just text,” Aggarwal said in a demo. “Language is also the vehicle for cultural values, context and ethos, and its current AI models just can’t capture India’s culture, knowledge, and aspirations given our multicultural, multilingual heritage,” he added.
Krutrim means ‘artificial’ in Sanskrit. It’s also the name of the company’s eponymous LLM, which Ola claims has been trained on 2 trillion tokens, or subwords. Ola says Krutrim is still a work in progress, but showed that the model could write stories and poems in multiple Indian languages — the model can currently understand 20 Indian languages and can generate in 10 Indian languages, including Marathi, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, and Odiya, among others.
“This is a model with many innovations in architecture and trained on 2 trillion tokens,” said Ola’s CMO Ravi Jain. “This LLM by far has the largest representation of the data used in training ever to offer the right balance for performance and price, and will be able to power most database applications,” he added. He further said the company will launch Krutrim Pro next quarter, which will be a very large multimodal AI model, which he said would have more sophisticated problem-solving and task execution capabilities.
Krutrim also is designing and using its own end-to-end AI infrastructure, which will run these models. Aggarwal said India needs to become a global leader in AI, and Krutrim was a step in that direction. “An AI-first economy will push the Indian technology industry on a nonlinear path, and make it a Global Knowledge Centre. And an AI-first economy will make India a leader in scientific discovery. And (Krutrim) AI will be a tool for cultural expression, rather than assimilation into a single global paradigm,” he said.
While the capabilities of Krutrim’s models haven’t yet been tested in the real world, especially in comparison to existing models like ChatGPT and Bard, they could prove vital to India’s interests. While the US and China currently have state-of-the-art models, India doesn’t have high-quality competitors yet. This means that Indians not only pay more to use these models in Indian languages — the difference in how Indian languages are tokenized causes ChatGPT’s outputs to be as much as 5x more expensive in Hindi than English — but they models carry all the biases of their creators as well. There have been several instances of OpenAI’s models showing left-wing biases, and India might end up inadvertently importing those ideologies if these models are used in India. As such, it’s vital that India becomes Atmanirbhar in the LLM space, and someone like Bhavish Aggarwal could be ideally suited to leading the charge — he’s a computer science engineer from IIT Bombay who’s built two successful billion-dollar companies, and also has the deep pockets that such a project would require.
There are similar people who’re leading the AI race in other countries. Sam Altman was already wealthy from his stint at Y Combinator, but chose to drop everything to work on OpenAI in 2016. Elon Musk has now also launched his own AI company, XAI, and released a model named Grok. And while Bhavish isn’t quite Elon Musk just yet, as the creator of two market-leading startups in India across two different fields, he’s perhaps among the best suited people in the country to come up with an AI company of their own.