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Reliance Industries-Backed AI Model Set to Launch

An alliance supported by Reliance Industries Ltd., owned by Mukesh Ambani, and leading engineering colleges in India plans to introduce its first ChatGPT-like service early next month, marking a significant advancement in the nation’s efforts to become a leader in the artificial intelligence space.

The BharatGPT group, which includes an arm of India’s most valued firm and eight associated colleges, gave a sneak preview of the huge language model Tuesday at a technology conference in Mumbai. In a film shown to delegates, a motorbike mechanic in southern India questioned an AI bot in his native Tamil, a banker spoke with the tool in Hindi, and a developer in Hyderabad used it to create computer code.

The model, called Hanooman after the Hindu god who is half-monkey, might help India catch up in the rapidly developing race to create potentially game-changing artificial intelligence.

BharatGPT envisions the model operating in 11 native languages across four major sectors: healthcare, government, financial services, and education. It created the concept in partnership with Indian Institute of Technology institutions, including those in Bombay, with funding from telecom carrier Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. and the Indian government.

A number of businesses, including Sarvam and Krutrim, are developing open-source AI models tailored to India, with funding from renowned VC investors such as Lightspeed Venture Partners and billionaire Vinod Khosla’s fund.

While Silicon Valley companies like OpenAI are building ever-larger LLMs, those efforts involve workarounds because of computational constraints and simpler models affordable to smaller businesses and government departments.

“It’s a different genre of LLMs,” said Ganesh Ramakrishnan, chair of the computer science and engineering department at IIT Bombay.

Hanooman will also have speech-to-text capabilities, making it far more user-friendly, he added during an interview on the sidelines of the annual Nasscom IT industry conference. In a country of 1.4 billion people, millions are unable to read or write.

Reliance Jio would create bespoke models for certain applications, he stated. The telecom-to-retail behemoth is already working on Jio Brain, a platform for deploying AI across a network of over 450 million members.

LLMs are systems that can learn from massive amounts of data and provide natural-sounding replies. Such models use generative AI, a newer sort of artificial intelligence made popular by the success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

BharatGPT’s effort in this space is somewhat unique — it’s the first private-public partnership of its kind in the country, and involves major players in disparate fields.

“It’s like the Indian joint family,” Ramakrishnan said, referring to inter-generational family structures still common in the country. “We are interdependent, and we do better together.” 

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