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Published on: Feb. 23, 2024, 2:06 p.m.
How Course5 helps businesses grow with Analytics and AI
  • Mittal: bullish about growth

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

This year has seen a notable slowdown in funding announcements from start-ups. Industry pundits and consulting firms forecast the ‘funding winter’ will continue for another six to 12 months. However, bucking this trend, an upcoming technology company closed not one but two successive funding rounds within the span of a single month. Course5 Intelligence, an analytics and AI solutions company, raised a total of $53 million in two back-to-back rounds of funding that were led by 360 ONE Asset Management Limited (formerly known as IIFL Asset Management Limited) and Nuvama Crossover Series of funds (managed by Nuvama Asset Management Limited), with participation from Carnelian Asset Advisors Pvt Ltd and its affiliates.

Ashwin Mittal, CEO, Course5 Intelligence, is bullish about growth and the demand for its AI-driven solutions, driven by their value proposition to impact business at speed and scale, leveraging AI technology and human expertise to provide trustworthy intelligence. The funding, he says, will help realise the aspiration to supplement the company’s organic growth with inorganic growth and accelerate the development of its own intellectual property (IP) using advanced data science and AI technologies.

What started as a vision to develop high-quality data analytics solutions for organisations to be more competitive and agile in the market, has resulted in the creation of a company that has transformed itself from a modest start-up into a global powerhouse with a footprint that spans continents, with offices in the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Under Ashwin’s leadership, the company seeks to create an exponential impact with non-linear revenue growth for all its clients using technological innovation and AI-based Intellectual Property (IP).

Now, the company is poised to grow further with the latest round of funding announcements. The funds will be combined with its own cash reserves for acquisitions and also expansion of R&D at Course5’s AI labs in areas including machine learning (ML), deep learning and neural networks, natural language, computer vision and computer audition, and generative AI including large language models. The company intends to make two acquisitions over the next year.

One of the first moves towards expansion, at the time of the second funding announcement, was to absorb Incivus, a technology start-up that specialises in AI-based ad creation and optimisation. The company clocked $50 million in revenue in FY23, growing in the range of 30 per cent, and expects to increase this organic growth rate to 35 per cent YoY, taking its revenue, including inorganic, closer to its goal of $200 million in the next 3 years.

Democratising data with GenAI

Businesses are constantly seeking ways to remain profitable, generate new revenue streams, and stay competitive and innovative. The digital transformation and adoption of cloud services have resulted in an exponential increase in the volume of data generated, prompting leadership to recognise the value of this information.

To assist organisations in making sense of their data, Course5 has developed platforms that provide analytics and leverage AI for accurate insights. These insights enable business users to make informed strategic and tactical decisions. The IP-based solutions incorporate Generative AI and are designed to be user-friendly, eliminating the need for data scientists or individuals with specialised skills to interpret the data.

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Course5 delves into various disciplines of AI to develop AI-driven, IP-led platforms and solutions supported that enable organisations to solve complex issues relating to their customers, markets, and supply chains at speed and scale. Combining advanced analytics and AI solutions with deep domain expertise and understanding of their clients’ businesses, Course5 is able to provide consulting-based problem-solving that drives higher efficiency, bottom-line impact, business growth, innovation, and better customer experience.

By leveraging AI-based innovation and IP development, Course5 has been able to drive non-linear growth, by not just increasing revenues but also through the high quality of revenue accruing from driving scalable, transformative impact for clients.

Another offering, Course5 Compete, is a real-time competitive and market intelligence platform. The solution provides real-time analytics, providing insights on competitor actions related to product, price, placement and promotion, enabling businesses to take timely action to optimise their ecommerce and digital presence and maximise revenue and profitability.

The platform also creates watch lists, sends alerts on competitor actions, tracks merchants across channels to ensure that the brand experience is consistent and identifies those that are either not authorised to sell the brand’s products or violate brand guidelines. Compete can also highlight and analyse market changes, including those that are legal and regulatory in nature.

A global strategy consulting company implemented Compete to map the entire digital customer journey of Gen Z and Millennials in the US and the UK. The platform enabled the company to identify the consumer’s path across various stages of the purchase funnel — from discovery to purchase — to evaluate engagement, improve service experience and gain valuable feedback.

Incivus, a company that Course5 Intelligence added to its fold recently, is starkly different from what Discovery and Compete offer. Corporates typically measure the effectiveness and impact of their advertising campaigns after the campaign is run. Incivus increases the chances of success of a campaign by using computer vision and deep learning with past data to assess the effectiveness of the ad and providing creative inputs to optimise it and help agencies with media planning.

The AI-led platform evaluates ads frame-by-frame to provide objective insights on ad recall, attention, emotions, etc so that brands can finetune the creative aspects and improve the chances of campaign success.

Cutting-edge R&D

While the company has a global footprint with the majority of its business coming from the US and Europe, Course5’s hardcore research work is done out of its state-of-the-art AI Labs where developers — AI scientists and machine learning engineers — create high-value industry-focused IP-based platforms and accelerators. They leverage global open-source AI research, augmenting that with their own applied AI research and development.

The company uses cutting-edge Generative AI capabilities to helping enterprises democratise and gain more value from their data and analytics investments. They help businesses contextualise and finetune Large Language Models to their enterprise data, domain, technology systems, and business goals to drive relevant and actionable insights and content generation for various purposes.

Course5’s Natural Language-based platforms and accelerators apply extensive research and innovation to text processing, text mining, information extraction, topic modelling, intelligent chatbots and conversational AI, machine translation, sense disambiguation, sentiment analysis, and speech recognition.

Integration of natural language processing and generation (NLP and NLG) also enables creation of easily interpretable and actionable insights in natural language format for dashboards, intelligent search, and extractive and abstractive summarisation so that even non-technical people can access insights in an intuitive manner.

  • Course5 has developed platforms that provide analytics and leverage AI for accurate insights

Course5 also builds platforms and accelerators that use computer vision and computer audition algorithms for image classification, age and gender determination, emotion detection, ethnicity detection, facial recognition, object detection and segmentation, optical character recognition, auditory scene analysis and more.

Their AI scientists apply multi-modal fusion AI techniques by combining and optimising multiple deep learning pipelines to solve real-world problems. This expertise is leveraged to analyse video content and provide insights to improve product positioning, brand perception, customer experience, and impact across the omnichannel ecosystem.

Course5 creates non-linear growth for clients through continuous research and improvements to its AI-based proprietary platforms and over 400 ready-to-use enterprise-grade AI models and reusable AI assets that enable 30 to 70 per cent effort savings and reduce time-to-market when adopted in client programs. These accelerators also help Course5 co-innovate and co-create solutions with clients for faster and higher value realisation.

Data visibility

Any data scientist or BI veteran will vouch for the power of data visibility. This refers to the ability of employees in a business to have access to information from start to end. However, disparate IT infrastructure, archaic processes and siloed work culture create gaps which then lead to delays, disruptions and poor decisions that can affect a company’s bottom line.

“We believe that one of the ways to overcome these challenges is to empower all stakeholders with ’connected intelligence’. This means that everybody in the ecosystem has a clear end-to-end visibility of data across departments and functions”, observes Mittal. The Internet of Things (IoT) in the supply chain and logistics industry, for instance, has helped generate millions of valuable data points.

All kinds of sensors, RFID tags, and IoT devices fetch and beam real-time data on products, shipment location, and equipment condition, generating valuable information that enables organisations to track payloads from source to destination while monitoring conditions (such as temperature and humidity) for any anomalies.

In a highly interconnected ecosystem, where IoT data is integrated with operational data, such ‘connected intelligence’ will lead to greater transparency in real time, reducing losses caused by route blockages or spoilage, improving production efficiency through better demand sensing, and improving customer service by pre-empting disruptions.

As with any new or popular technology, AI technology has its own risks and requires stringent guardrails. Cybersecurity, IP protection, bias elimination and privacy are some of the issues that have generated a significant amount of debate. There have been instances of sensitive, inaccurate, or biased information being amplified by third-party solutions and shared within the system.

ChatGPT, for instance, has given everybody a first-hand experience of the power of the technology and its advantages and disadvantages. In some instances, it also exposed imperfections like gender bias and stereotyping. This exposed the dire need for guardrails to be put in place.

“We are aware of these issues and understand that to drive adoption of AI systems and impact through them, customers should first be able to trust an organisation’s AI application. Implementing Responsible AI practices and bringing transparency to how an AI system works can go a long way in helping organisations create this trust,” adds Mittal emphasising the need for Responsible AI as part of the development and product lifecycle management cycle.

Course5 uses a comprehensive Risk Management and Governance Framework with Responsible AI policies in building all its platforms and solutions and deploying them for enterprise customers. Developers at the AI Labs work on the systems they have built to ensure that their data sets are not amplifying incorrect answers or producing unfair and biased outcomes. They work towards perfecting a continuous method that involves detecting and rectifying deviations to build a framework that takes every stakeholder’s interest into account and provides a pleasurable experience to end users.

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The company believes in including Responsible AI practices into the product lifecycle to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability are always maintained. According to Course5, this helps build trust among the product’s customers and its users. For this, Course5 recommends that organisations use AI models that are trained on diverse datasets and are regularly audited for bias, and finetuned to minimize any anomalies.

Humans are still needed

A burning question is whether AI will replace humans in the future. There is no doubt there will be some roles that will cease to exist, similar to what happened when banking processes started getting digitised. However, it will also open doors to new job functions and responsibilities that will require humans with more advanced skill sets to design and oversee AI and apply it in inventive ways to solve human problems.

In fact, the next wave of industrialisation — or Industry 5.0 — is all about human-centric collaboration with machines. Highly skilled individuals will still be required to man the systems, monitor them, update them whenever required and use the data to make decisions at the speed of business.

Industry 5.0 will be all about humans and machines leveraging each other’s strengths to complete tasks. AI and automation, for instance, will streamline processes and shorten innovation and discovery cycles, while human characteristics like creativity, intuition, and the ability to solve problems quickly will continue to be invaluable and irreplaceable.

Finally, Course5 is on track to cross $100 million revenue in the next fiscal and plans to launch its IPO in the next 18 months.

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