Indian AI Startup Secures $41 Million Funding to Expand Market Reach

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Sarvam AI, a burgeoning artificial intelligence startup with a focus on the Indian market, has successfully raised $41 million in its latest funding round, marking the largest investment in early-stage AI enterprises within the country.

The Bangalore-based startup, previously operating in stealth mode, is spearheaded by co-founders Vivek Raghavan and Pratyush Kumar. Sarvam AI is dedicated to constructing extensive language models tailored for various applications in Indian languages, with the ultimate goal of providing affordable apps accessible to India’s vast population of 1.4 billion people. The Series A funding, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, also featured participation from notable entities such as Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures and Peak XV Partners (formerly Sequoia Capital India & Southeast Asia).

Sarvam AI is committed to developing open source foundational AI systems and tools geared towards the limited compute infrastructure available to developers in India. With 18 employees, the startup is now establishing its office in the city and aims to showcase the ability to build large language models efficiently with constrained resources.

Vivek Raghavan, in a recent phone interview, highlighted the startup’s approach: “What we are showing is that you can build large language models with limited resources. We are building at a smaller scale and demonstrating that these can be extremely cost and energy efficient so they can be accessed by everyone.”

Large language models, exemplified by OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Llama, are potent AI systems capable of diverse tasks such as summarization, translation, and content creation. Sarvam’s strategic focus is on creating models for the top 10 Indian languages, with an impending release of its first open source model in the coming weeks. Despite being “much smaller” in scale compared to some of the largest models, Sarvam’s systems, in the “billions” of parameters, emphasize accessibility and efficiency.

The startup’s name, Sarvam, draws inspiration from the ancient Sanskrit term meaning “all,” reflecting its inclusive mission. Raghavan, a computer engineering PhD from Carnegie Mellon University, and Kumar, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay with a computer engineering PhD from ETH Zurich, bring a wealth of expertise to the venture.

Silicon Valley luminary Vinod Khosla, an early supporter of OpenAI, emphasized the strategic importance of AI development in various countries. He stated, “We need companies like Sarvam AI to develop deep expertise for building AI in and for India.” The successful funding round positions Sarvam AI to play a pivotal role in the evolving landscape of AI development within the Indian market.

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