News / 17.04.2012

Happy Birthday to Uniphore, from Ashok Jhunjhunwala

Uniphore marches ahead as it approaches its fourth anniversary… On April 23rd, Uniphore celebrates its fourth birthday. So far, our journey has been spectacular: we’ve developed sohpisticated insights into what makes speech technology work across languages and geographies, we’ve won loyal, prestigious customers, and we’ve gained international acclaim for our unique applications. For these successes, we owe abundant thanks to many, many people. But the person to whom we are perhaps most grateful is Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala, who chairs the Rural Technology and Business Incubator(RTBI) at IIT Madras and the Mobile Payment Forum of India. Dr. Jhunjhunwala is also a Director on the Board of the State Bank of India, a Board member of various prestigious companies including Polaris, Sasken, and NRDC, and a representative on the Prime Minister’s Setup Scientific Advisory Committee.

Amidst his busy schedule, Professor Jhunjhunwala has devoted his passion, expertise and insights to our growth from when Uniphore was in its most nascent concept stages through today. Therefore, we can think of no better to person author our birthday blogpost. Here’s what he has to say:


In India, the speed of mobile penetration is 10 times faster than PC penetration, and it is expected to reach one billion by 2014. I fervently believe that as mobile phones become available to almost every family in India, it will trigger the transformation process that India has been waiting for, and provide the rare opportunity to leapfrog years of poor infrastructure development and bypass geographical constraints. However, in order to capitalize on this opportunity, enterprises, NGOs and governments need to utilize every capability of the mobile phone.

Until now, there has been significant emphasis on the data communication capabilities of mobile phones and the large number of differentiated services that can be built using these channels. While this is important, the true potential in India will only be realised when an equal emphasis is placed on building services using voice communication. Since about 40% of India’s population is illiterate, and many more are semi-literate, they are not comfortable with any kind of text-based communication. However, if such services are delivered to them using voice and in local language, the game is changed.

Mobile phones are designed for easy voice communication, irrespective of language being spoken. Speech recognition can thus take advantage of this natural and intuitive mode of communicating by creating human-like call flows on applications. Furthermore, the mobile channel allows companies to identify users through Calling Line Identification, or CLI, which recognizes the SIM card being used for making the call, as well as location based services, which identify the location of the phone within 50 to 250 meters. Here, voice technology can again add significant value, as Voice Biometrics can authenticate the unique identity of the caller (not just the phone). Therefore, together, speech recognition and voice biometrics on the mobile phone can take secure information and transactions to the last mile in a way in which no other channel is capable.

This is why I believe in Uniphore. Launched as an incubatee of RTBI, the company has spent the last four year using speech recognition and voice authentication engines to build robust applications on the mobile platform. Since these voice engines are still quite rudimentary, and by themselves have high rates of error, the efforts behind creating quality applications are enormous. Through unwavering dedication and long hours, I’ve been a witness to the innovative and skillful techniques that Uniphore has developed to cover up these deficiencies and deliver solutions that are reliable, dependable, and natural to the end user. The team has been able to achieve this because of the culture ingrained within the company, which emphasizes continual learning, experimenting, and collaboration. I am proud that IIT Madras is one of their collaboration partners in these efforts.

In order to foster holistic development, mobile applications are needed to provide services in all walks of life. Uniphore has done a creditable job in building applications in financial services, agricultural services, sales and distribution services and healthcare services. They recognize the opportunities of voice to extend the outreach of businesses in all industries, and are working diligently to develop appropriate, cost-effecitve solutions for each sector. With only four years under their belt, Uniphore has made remarkable progress building a business around revolutionary technologies, taking on the task of educating customers about the capabilities of voice, as well as leading the technological sophistication of voice-based applications. As a company which has delivered meaningful solutions to businesses while maintaining a commitment to developing inclusive technologies that can be deployed pan India, it has a huge potential, both in terms of making a difference to the society as well as building an excellent and profitable enterprise. Congratulations to its founders, its leaders and its employees as they march to their fourth anniversary. The future is theirs…

Ashok jhunjhunwala

About Uniphore: Uniphore Technologies Inc is the leader in Multi lingual speech-based software solutions. Uniphore’s solutions allow any machine to understand and respond to natural human speech, thus enabling humans to use the most natural of communication modes, speech, to engage and instruct machines. Uniphore operates from its corporate headquarters at IIT Madras Research Park, Chennai, India and has sales offices in Middle East (Dubai, UAE) as well as in Manila, Philippines.