ICICI Bank, India's third largest bank in terms of assets, has announced that it has set aside Rs 100 crore for investing in upcoming technology startups working in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), an emerging form of business process automation technology based on the notion of software robots.

According to Madhivanan Balakrishnan, Chief Technology and Digital Officer of ICICI Bank, out of ₹100 crore the bank has already invested ₹40 crore across six start-up firms and has a steady pipeline of potential investments across lending, digital KYC, artificial intelligence on the mobility side as well.

ICICI bank might invest the complete amount of ₹100 crore by the end of this year however ₹100 crore is not the limit the bank is restricted with. The bank would build on the investment further to take it over ₹100 crore, according to Balakrishnan.

In terms of capabilities the bank is looking in startups, Balakrishnan explains that the bank will see only two things -- a working proof of concept (PoC) and uniqueness of the solution.

Besides, the bank is also partnering with the startups which have built the technologies but can not scale them. The bank discovers these startups through its ‘Demo Day’ programme, which it runs once a quarter, and is based on themes like KYC-related innovations or digital lending or data analytics on the artificial intelligence side.

One of the bank’s investments is in Mumbai-based Fingpay, which lets merchants accept payments through biometric payments. ICICI has reportedly invested ₹99 Lakhs in Taptis Technologies, the parent company of Fingpay, in February.

ICICI has also invested in Bengaluru-based Arteria Technologies, which offers supply chain solution on cloud and payments.

Speaking about technologies ICICI is looking for, in a startup, Balakrishnan said that artificial intelligence (AI) is an interesting area they are actively looking at, as the bank is looking to move on from chatbots to voice assistants. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is another technology that the bank want to invest in to use in complex decision making, where both data quality and rules, as well as process, are equally ambiguous.

Notably, the bank is already using RPAs but now it wants to take it next level. In September 2016 announced 'software robotics' initiative, which is a first of its kind by any Indian bank. Over 200 software robots are now performing over 1 million transactions per day for ICICI bank which comprises 10% of its total transactions. The bank reportedly engaged 500 software robots by the end of the year which will help it to automate 20% of its total transactions.

The bank has implemented the ‘Software Robotics’ platform mostly in-house, leveraging recent advancements in artificial intelligence such as facial and voice recognition, natural language processing, machine learning and bots among others.

In the same year, ICICI Bank, in partnership with Emirates NBD, became the first Indian Bank to successfully execute transactions in international trade finance and remittance using blockchain technology.

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