Bengaluru-based artificial intelligence startup Sarvam AI has emerged from stealth after 5 months, revealing $41 million in seed and Series A funding to construct a suite of generative AI services tailored for India. The funding was led by Lightspeed and Peak XV Partners across both rounds (Singh, 2023).
Sarvam aims to develop large language models that incorporate Indian languages while also enabling businesses to easily build with these LLMs via its platform. The 19-employee firm wants to utilize voice interfaces by default to serve the country’s conditions. Founders Vivek Raghavan and Pratyush Kumar hope custom architecture and training will make the models highly efficient at understanding and producing local languages.
Raghavan brings experience from managing India’s national digital ID system Aadhaar. He wants to apply lessons on innovating foundations and achieving population-scale deployments to generative AI. Kumar specialized in AI at non-profit AI4Bharat before co-launching Sarvam.
Investor interest reflects global fervor around AI advancements and leading startups. However India has lagged technologically despite a vibrant tech ecosystem. No homegrown challengers have yet emerged against LLMs from OpenAI, Anthropic or Google, although Reliance partners with Nvidia on a multilingual model for the country.
Backers believe Sarvam’s approach combining innovation and applications can birth “population-scale solutions for India.” The team is viewed as best positioned to build affordable AI adopted widely across the diverse population. Early Sarvam investor Khosla Ventures reaped $5 billion returns from initial OpenAI backing, lending credence.
The startup looks to unveil its first model publicly in coming weeks. Regulatory compliance may necessitate localization given data and privacy considerations. Nonetheless, the founding team’s pedigree and targeted strategy has inspired confidence among high-profile Indian and global VCs about the prospects. With access to significant capital and local machine learning talent, Sarvam hopes to pioneer Indian advancements in the global AI race.