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OpenAI taps former Twitter India head to kickstart in the country

Image Credits: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP / Getty Images
Image Credits: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP / Getty Images

According to information that TechCrunch has exclusively obtained, OpenAI is working with Rishi Jaitly, a senior adviser who formerly served as the CEO of Twitter India, to facilitate discussions with the government about artificial intelligence policy. Moreover, OpenAI is trying to establish a local team in India.

According to individuals acquainted with the situation, Jaitly has been assisting OpenAI in navigating India’s legislative and regulatory landscape, as TechCrunch reported.

Except for a trademark granted earlier this month, OpenAI does not have an official presence in India. However, OpenAI co-founder and CEO Sam Altman stopped in New Delhi during his globetrotting trip in June, where he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Altman reported that he had an excellent talk with Modi after his encounter. Despite this, neither Altman nor the firm made any statements during his two-day visit to the company.

There is a lack of clarity around whether or not OpenAI officially hires Jaitly, yet he has been taking on a job that involves advising the firm on how to create connections in India. Following Atlman’s trip to New Delhi, he began serving in the job, according to two people who spoke with TechCrunch.

After serving as the head of the public-private partnership for Google in India from 2007 to 2009, Jaitly moved on to Twitter, now known as X, in 2012. Per his LinkedIn page, he was the first employee of the organization to be hired in the nation.

After some time, he was promoted to Vice President for the APAC and MENA areas. Jaitly resigned from his position as CEO of Twitter in late 2016, and he went on to become the co-founder and CEO of Times Bridge, the worldwide investment arm of the Indian media powerhouse The Times Group of Companies. Some companies in Times Bridge’s portfolio are Uber, Airbnb, Coursera, Mubi, Smule, and Wattpad. In 2022, Jaitly resigned from his position at the company.

Anna Makanju, who serves as the vice president of global affairs for OpenAI, is slated to deliver a speech at the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence meeting that will take place in Delhi the following week. Other industry experts and politicians from all over the world will join her. It is expected that she will participate in the session that is named “Collaborative Artificial Intelligence for Global Partnership (CAIGP): Global Cooperation for Equitable AI.” The involvement of Makanju at the event was arranged with the assistance of Jaitly, according to sources who spoke with TechCrunch.

OpenAI’s leadership has experienced a rollercoaster ride during the past few weeks. Initially, Altman and Greg Brockman, serving as board president, were immediately removed from their positions inside the firm. Before returning to OpenAI with a revised board, the two individuals briefly joined Mircosoft.

During his visit to New Delhi in June, Altman answered a question during an event that Times Group held. The issue concerned the construction of fundamental models with a ten-million-dollar budget. He referred to it as “hopeless.” (To construct its basic models, OpenAI has successfully funded over eleven billion dollars to this point.)

However, Altman then explained that his views were taken out of context and that he meant it is difficult to compete with companies like OpenAI with such a budget. His comments were received with some criticism from Indian businesspeople.

“The question that should be asked is what a startup company can do that has never been done before, and that will bring something fresh to the world. In a post on X, he stated, “I do not doubt that Indian startups are capable of and will accomplish that.”

Critics have criticized India as being far behind in artificial intelligence research, and the lack of financing is one of the primary reasons for this. This article from September mentioned that India’s artificial intelligence (AI) startups have raised approximately $4 billion. This may seem like a significant amount until you take into account the $50 billion that has been invested in the ecosystem in China, India’s primary competitor, or the $11 billion or more that OpenAI alone has raised (in addition to the billions more that other prominent players have picked up and, of course, the money that Big Tech is putting into this).

A more sympathetic perspective may be that the development of artificial intelligence in India is still in its infancy. This is because a few businesses, such as Sarvam, which recently secured $41 million from investors such as Lightspeed, Peak XV, and Khosla Ventures, are only beginning to construct basic models.

Even though India has more than 1,500 artificial intelligence (AI)-based firms that have received more than $4 billion in investment, analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein are stating in a note that India is still losing the war for AI innovation.

For businesses such as OpenAI, this creates a significant obstacle. With more than 880 million users, India, the most populated country in the world and the second-largest internet market after China, provides tremendous potential for expansion. During his visit to the engineering campus of IIT Delhi in June, Altman made a veiled reference to the company’s interest in the country.

At that time, he stated, “It really is amazing to watch what is happening in India with the embrace of artificial intelligence—not just OpenAI but other technologies too.”

This being stated, the corporation has not yet disclosed any investments it has made in the nation (except for the trademark).

On top of that, it could not be a quick transition. An investor in OpenAI sent this information to TechCrunch, stating that the company views India as its primary market and is looking into ways to increase its presence there.

However, now that OpenAI’s leadership has been secured and the firm has a board that is more in agreement with its stronger commercial drive, legislation is one of the last things that stands in the way of the company’s progress. Consequently, it is possible that the first and most essential effort that it may be undertaking right now is to work on the regulatory front.

For now, the effort may include grasping the path in which things will be heading over the next several years.

Throughout this year, officials from the Indian government have made it clear that they do not intend to impose stringent limitations on the development of artificial intelligence. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Minister of State for Information Technology of India, has called for international cooperation to build a framework for regulating artificial intelligence that includes “guardrails of safety and trust.”

“We are very committed to artificial intelligence,” he stated at the Global Technology Summit held in New Delhi earlier this week. Carnegie India and the Ministry of External Affairs in India organized the event. “There is no doubt that we are concentrating on using artificial intelligence in real-world scenarios, and our prime minister firmly believes that technology can revolutionize people’s lives by enabling governments to offer more, deliver quicker, and deliver better. As a result, we will utilize artificial intelligence to construct models and capabilities geared toward real-world applications.

In contrast to OpenAI, Microsoft, its largest investor and strategic partner, currently holds an observer seat on the board and has a substantial presence in India. Outside of its headquarters in Redmond, the software giant has one of its primary research and development facilities in Bengaluru. Additionally, the company has three data centers located around the nation. The company first began its local foothold in the Indian market in 1990. The company employs over 20,000 people across ten locations in India. In addition to that, the corporation is an active investor in new businesses in India.

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