After a decade in Silicon Valley, Ashwini Asokan started Mad Street Den with the aim of bringing computer vision technology from science labs into the hands of people. Today, her AI platform powers retailers and online marketplaces, including MercadoLibre in Latin America, Zilingo in South East Asia, and other companies in North America, the Middle East, and Japan as well as at home in India.
What’s the biggest opportunity in India that’s often overlooked?
Talent. People. India has a growing pool of talent on one hand and a very high unemployment rate on the other and needs skilled and trained talent in a variety of sectors. Fixing the talent problem is one of the bigger opportunities for multifold growth in the coming decades.
What’s the one trend in India that the rest of the world should be paying attention to?
The ability to leapfrog. India does not always follow the larger trends of the world in the same way. It has its own cycles, largely fueled by the local conditions. The Indian tech scene in particular constantly leapfrogs the market.
How does your startup help regional retailers compete with Big Tech?
We see ourselves as an enabler to the industry that gives every brand, startup, and growing retailer a chance to win in an Amazon-dominated world. The power of AI for companies is about gaining an order of magnitude advantage, to grow and to scale.
What is the one issue related to AI ethics that worries you the most?
Who gets to create AI? This is what I worry about the most. The coming few decades are going to define what so many generations coming up are going to experience. It is important that we proliferate an infinite amount of AI in the coming years, created by very different people.
*This 3 Minutes With interview first appeared in Rest of World’s weekly newsletter. Sign up here.