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AI4Bharat researchers to raise $12 million from Peak XV, Lightspeed for own firm – sources

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By Yuvraj Malik

(Reuters) – Researchers at India’s AI4Bharat are raising $12 million from venture capital firms Peak XV and Lightspeed Venture for an artificial intelligence startup, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The larger-than-usual seed funding round underscores the growing interest in generative AI, after OpenAI’s ChatGPT dazzled users with its ability to engage in human-like conversations. Most seed rounds are usually up to $1 million to $2 million.

Vivek Raghavan and Pratyush Kumar, who worked on developing AI models for speech recognition and translation at AI4Bharat, are launching a new venture called Sarvam that will develop custom-made large language models (LLMs) for India-centric use-cases, the sources said.

Peak XV and Lightspeed did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

LLMs are computer algorithms that understand and generate text in a human-like fashion. They power virtual assistants widely in use on smartphones and the Internet.

The move comes months after Indian-government backed AI4Bharat unveiled a mobile assistant that aims to make information on government schemes accessible in multiple languages.

The investment is among the first from Peak XV Partners after rebranding from Sequoia Capital India and SEA following a split with its U.S.-based parent fund last month.

Peak XV’s other AI investments include voice assistant firm AI Rudder, computer vision firm Mad Street Den and enterprise marketing platform Insider, according to its website.

The buzz around generative AI among both consumers and businesses has helped related start-ups draw funding even as an uncertain economy saps investments for other companies.

Indian AI start-ups have raised $583 million this year, as of June, according to data from Venture Intelligence. They raised a total of $2.45 billion last year.

(Reporting by Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru)

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