Wisdom From The Women Leading The AI Industry, With Kanti Prabha of SirionLabs
Agility — Compared to a human, an AI engine can complete tasks at a remarkably rapid rate with fewer errors. This is critical within the CLM industry, where small contract errors can result in significant financial loss and increased risk exposure. Manual contract due diligence is a complex, cost and effort intensive process that largely rely on legacy tools and spreadsheets, which are ill suited for the job. However, with an AI-led solution, legal teams can scale their operations much faster while gaining time- and cost-efficiency and allow the enterprise to keep up with the growing demands of their customers.
As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kanti Prabha.
Kanti Prabha is the Chief Operating Officer and the Co-founder at SirionLabs. She is responsible for managing the company’s operations, executing SirionLabs’ business strategy and ensuring operational excellence company-wide. Before Co-founding SirionLabs, Kanti was a Director at UnitedLex Corporation for 5 years. At UnitedLex, she was responsible for creation of innovative software products and services for lawyers, contracts professionals, and the like. Prior to joining UnitedLex, Kanti was associated with Evalueserve as a team lead where she managed projects on patent drafting, searching and IPAMs. Kanti holds a degree in M.Sc Chemistry from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?
My career spans over 16 years, during which I have focused primarily on innovating enterprise-level SaaS products. My experience at Evalueserve and UnitedLex helped me hone my abilities and gave me the creative independence to explore beyond set formats. I was a part of the core teams at each of these organizations from the time they were starting up. So, I have always had the drive to build businesses from scratch.
In my earlier roles, I had the opportunity to work closely with customers, understand their business problems, and then collaboratively develop a solution with some of the finest minds in the industry. It felt great to see that the solutions I co-created made a positive impact on some of the largest global corporations, including a few Fortune 500s. This further strengthened my motivation to build creative technology-based solutions that can help shape the future of how businesses operate.
What lessons can others learn from your story?
Perseverance is the key. I did not get to where I am today overnight. While the general notion of success largely focuses on the end result, it completely misses out on the fact that it isn’t one big idea that true success hinges on.
Success is the sum total of sleepless nights spent on coming up with and implementing small but great ideas, forging ahead even when you are on the edge of falling off, and of course, a team that is ready to follow you to the ends of the Earth while also challenging every one of your opinions and ideas if they seem anything less than bulletproof.
Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
At SirionLabs, our core objective has been to help enterprises meet their business commitments by changing how they manage contracts, collaborate with counterparties, and minimize risk exposure. In order to do that and more, we are currently focusing on making cutting-edge AI-led solutions accessible to our customers in a way that can enable them to achieve better business outcomes and maximize value realization in context of commercial engagements.
We recently launched SirionAE, our homegrown contract intelligence solution, which is powered by machine learning and natural language processing that quickly extracts and analyzes clauses, obligations, service levels, price books and more — data that is embedded deep within the contract language. SirionAE puts organizations in complete control of their business by delivering full visibility into risks and opportunities hidden across their customer and supplier contract portfolio.
We have also been working on rolling out several patent-pending AI updates for our central CLM solutions. These innovations will help our customers gain an unprecedented degree of control over the contract drafting process and enrich the post-execution contract governance experience by automating contract performance and relationship management and invoice validation. With these key updates, we hope to assist our customers in minimizing contract value leakage associated with performance discrepancies and invoicing errors, which translates to $2–3T in lost value annually for enterprises globally.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
One cannot achieve success in isolation. We all need that small push here and a helping hand there to move forward and realize our goals. Of course, I have a wonderful team at work, but my home team is what holds the entire show together. As a working mom with two very young daughters, I couldn’t have traveled around the world to close deals across time zones and fulfilled my duties without the support I receive from my family. I have never had to stop working or let work take a back seat simply because my family always had my back and valued what I did and my vision. From my husband doing the night feeds with the baby to the grandparents watching the girls while I was at work, my family has given me the strength and peace of mind I need to persevere.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?
- Agility — Compared to a human, an AI engine can complete tasks at a remarkably rapid rate with fewer errors. This is critical within the CLM industry, where small contract errors can result in significant financial loss and increased risk exposure. Manual contract due diligence is a complex, cost and effort intensive process that largely rely on legacy tools and spreadsheets, which are ill suited for the job. However, with an AI-led solution, legal teams can scale their operations much faster while gaining time- and cost-efficiency and allow the enterprise to keep up with the growing demands of their customers.
- Endless Possibilities — AI has already exceeded human abilities in a few narrow subject areas, such as the game of Go or the ability to identify cancerous cells in a body scan. We have only just started to figure out effective methods for embedding prior knowledge in ML network architectures. This would eventually help us build more powerful systems that are capable of self-learning. Google’s MultiModel extends the input channels from one (e.g., an image or a document) to eight with a mix of image, audio, and text streams, with improved accuracy. As processing and inference capabilities improve, there is little doubt that models with many more streams are going to become feasible. I can only imagine what sorts of applications we might be able to discover for such AI engines
- Quick Response to Crises — AI’s far-reaching capabilities unlock knowledge and data historically inaccessible to humans. During the pandemic, AI has been critical to the swift delivery of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. For example, our clients were able to leverage Sirion to quickly review data patterns across thousands of documents to identify contracts that needed to be amended to reduce risk exposure — for example, due to a missing Force Majeure clause. Where humans fall short, AI fills the gaps and improves productivity.
- Social Change — In addition to supporting business practices globally, AI can help solve some of the most pressing issues in our society. From predicting natural disasters to eliminating harmful biases, AI is a powerful tool in that will continue to make a social impact.
- Applicability — Every industry can benefit from AI. From contract management to healthcare to eCommerce to energy, AI is not limited to the high-tech world. These developments have already led to more accurate diagnoses, faster shipping and an improved electrical grid.
What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?
- Skewed Training Data for AI — As we become increasingly reliant on AI technologies, poorly trained AI data could result in serious repercussions. We have already witnessed a few real-world examples — from autonomous cars failing to yield to traffic signals to the current reports about systemic bias that certain facial recognition software have exhibited.
- Underrepresentation — AI needs to account for people of all different races and identities to be successful in the long term. The implications of underlying bias in technology affect people daily and must be addressed and resolved as we lay the foundation for the future of AI.
- Lack of Emotional Intelligence — When you simplify AI, it is a computer program that has been trained to perform on a dataset. Fundamentally, AI lacks a human’s perspective and the social intelligence necessary to make critical decisions. Consequently, humans must be kept in the loop when developing new AI products and technologies.
- Privacy — As technology becomes increasingly central to our daily lives, the risk of AI invading our privacy continues to increase. In order to mitigate this threat, we must establish boundaries on how companies and governments are able to use AI to monitor and collect personal information.
- Ethics and Regulation — AI-focused R&D has seen phenomenal growth in the last few years. The consequent innovations haven’t always been utilized properly. The strongest example that comes to my mind is how ML-based text mining tools and facial recognition software has been widely used to produce ‘deepfake’ videos and fake news. I think this is the time that we must focus on developing a set of ethical codes and regulatory frameworks to govern the future of AI research and application.
As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?
There are undoubtedly potential dangers associated with the advancement of artificial intelligence. In recent years, we’ve seen technology misinterpret inputs and perpetuate systemic biases, particularly across law enforcement and facial recognition. With these vulnerabilities in mind, AI has enormous potential to influence real change towards society’s betterment. From enabling more efficient diagnosis and vaccine treatment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to improving environmental sustainability efforts, artificial intelligence will prove to be an invaluable tool across industries when correctly trained and guided. I see the positive outcomes far outweighing the risks.
What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?
As artificial intelligence becomes increasingly accessible, we have a collective responsibility to establish a set of standards to encourage positive progression. First, it’s critical that all AI products, solutions, and technologies are adequately trained. This means utilizing robust and diverse datasets and consistently testing and improving our AI. Further, we can expect governments to play a role in regulating AI’s applications. The most effective of these will support businesses and organizations as they create more equitable, safe, and efficient AI.
As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?
My advice to women entrepreneurs, particularly, would be to get over the gender bias in their own minds first, and only then will they be able to fight bias in the world outside.
Entrepreneurship has different challenges at various levels, but one needs to narrow it down to what they want to achieve and plan accordingly. It will make things more systematic and the planning will help in pre-empting many avoidable and/or unpleasant surprises.
Other than that, one should be conservative with money in the initial phase of and on-board a funding team.
The final recommendation would be to master the art of storytelling. You need to be able to share your knowledge with others. Every entrepreneurial journey is not just a timeline, it is a combination of moments, frustrations, learnings, motivation, and successes. A good entrepreneur is always a good storyteller.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?
We have to start by reorganizing the workforce. The answer is as simple as that. An entire gender has been marginalized because of our inability to look beyond archaic gender-roles that effectively prevent millions of working-age women from meaningfully contributing to industry and innovation.
We need to make room for women and for the disproportionate responsibilities of unpaid care they carry. The ongoing pandemic has challenged the way we worked and completely upended it. Right now, many of us are working from home, and pretty efficiently. This just goes to show that for many industries and roles, alternative work paradigms work. We need to start making policies that account for the needs of both gender as well as the stage of life a person is in — be it flexible hours or remote work and paid leave for people who have just stepped into parenthood or hiring practices that focus on a person and not a resume. We also need to take active steps towards bridging the very real gender pay gap that exists not only in tech but every industry across the board. I think the current crisis, just like every crisis before, has given us the opportunity to reorganize the way we work to be more inclusive; a second chance that we should not squander.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
Steve Jobs said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.”, and that resonates with me. I firmly believe that the platform we’ve built has a measurable impact on people around the world even if they don’t realize it. For example, one of our customers is a global CPG giant, which sells its products — including critical care and personal hygiene goods — across all six inhabited continents to people from all walks of life. The visibility and value they realize through our platform ultimately helps them keep their promises to their end-consumers in the form of more affordable and higher quality goods and services. What really drives me is that we are solving real world business problems and the impact of our solutions cascade down to individuals like you and me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I think there’s a lot we can change about today’s corporate work culture that often reduces people to statistics. Yes, we do need numbers to drive growth, but it is the reductive way of thinking that pigeonholes people according to certain ‘marketable’ skills and discounts their abilities and creativity against the number of hours they clock in. We are more than 200 years past the industrial revolution, and we need to stop treating people like assembly line workers (we have AI and robotics for that now). In other words, we need to value people according to how creatively they solve real world problems. That’s what will sustainably fuel innovation. At SirionLabs, we have fervently worked towards crafting and implementing policies that create a safe space for people to be themselves, think critically, and think with the goal of discovering new solutions instead of just fulfilling the KPIs and hours mandated of their role.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!