Behind the Term Sheet: How AI Rudder is Localizing Conversational AI for Southeast Asia

Cathay Innovation
Cathay Innovation
Published in
5 min readMar 9, 2022

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By: Rajive Keshup, Nicolas du Cray, Lorraine Ge, Cathay Innovation

2020 was a breakthrough year for Conversational AI as AI systems could understand and generate language with human-like accuracy for the first time. The fruits of millions of hours of engineering efforts were starting to bear with Conversational AI marking the next iteration of human-to-computer interaction.

Source: ARK Invest Big Ideas 2021

Conversation, as we know, is extremely complex. On top of having multiple languages, human interactions are laced with nuance, sentiments, context, social norms and practices that are hard to understand let alone be reciprocated by machines. This is also why for years, when you tried speaking to virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, you’d frequently run into “Sorry, I didn’t quite get that.” Thankfully, the conversational AI bots of today have far surpassed that of a rudimentary rule-based chatbot.

At Cathay Innovation, we’re big believers in backing businesses that will define the next millennia of how we live, work and do business. We’re also big advocates of those building tech locally that can be sold globally. This is what drew us to AI Rudder, Southeast Asia’s leading conversational AI platform. And today, we’re thrilled to announce our investment in its $50M Series B alongside Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global and Coatue.

We’ve known co-founders Teng Ren and Kun Wu for over 12 years, building deep conviction in their product and fostering a close relationship with the team leading AI Rudder. Both founders have close to ~30 years combined experience in AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) and are experienced entrepreneurs, having brought CooTek public on the NYSE in 2018 — making it one of the first real Chinese software powerhouses with global adoption. Seeing the quality and scale of the platform, Cathay’s Nicolas and Denis invested in CooTek’s seed round with Teng Ren at the head of the company as Co-founder and Chief Data Officer and Kun Wu being an early employee and Head of the Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Conversational AI — Key for Digital Transformation, but Complex in Southeast Asia

As conversational AI continues to evolve, proliferate and mature, it has moved from experimentation to application and the possible use cases are endless — spanning industries like healthcare, fintech and commerce.

One major use case is within customer experience as customers want on-demand service across every touchpoint. Having a good quality customer experience is also a major competitive advantage for businesses today, resulting in a corresponding rise in the adoption of voice bots to manage and handle greater call volumes within teams. This has made conversational AI critical in the digital transformation era — adopted by more and more enterprises around the world to provide customer support at scale.

But in markets like Southeast Asia, conversational AI firms face a major challenge due to the multiple types of languages, dialects, slang and differing accents around the region. Such unique demands necessitate deep product localization and strong technological capabilities to understand as well as communicate in a natural and smooth way between AI chatbots and customers.

Furthermore, businesses also want to be able to modify the pitch, tone, gender and various other types of traits to better suit the needs of their customers. For instance, clients may want the bot to have a gentle but persuasive tone for telemarketing versus a firm tone when it comes to debt collection.

Enter AI Rudder — the Leading, Multi-lingual, Enterprise-grade, Conversational AI SaaS in SEA

Not only has AI Rudder created a bot that can comprehend sentiments, intent, and inconsistencies or interruptions between lines —but it can natively converse in multiple informal forms of language including Singlish (a blend of Singaporean slang and English). Currently, the bot supports close to 20 languages such as Hindi, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malay, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese and many more.

AI Rudder’s chatbot mimics a realistic human so well that most customers don’t notice that it’s a robot. This helps companies deliver a seamless experience that is highly personalized and contextual without losing the human touch. The company also has the highest call concurrency rate in the market, allowing its customers to make millions of calls in just the span of one hour. This enables agents to be 2X more productive while saving on 25% of costs.

Covering multiple languages, platforms and devices, AI Rudder has rapidly established itself as a key part of enterprise tech stacks and workflows, particularly in helping to channel customer queries efficiently and effectively. The company’s enterprise-grade solution helps to serve over 100 customers in industries including fintech, e-commerce and travel — including high growth startups like FinAccel, Akulaku and Traveloka and public companies like Shopee, Finvolution and Adira Finance.

The company has grown revenue 4X over the past year, close to double-digit ARR, while it has diversified into four new markets and maintained strong unit economics. AI Rudder is currently available in eight countries including Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and India. It also has strong product stickiness with top accounts landing and expanding by over 13X through strong usage. They’ve managed to keep churn down at 0% for enterprise accounts while expanding revenue retention by ~500%.

Parting Thoughts

Throughout our journey at Cathay, we’ve been fortunate enough to invest in several leading SaaS companies that cut across industries and use cases while delivering features to customers that truly delight them. And we believe AI Rudder is no different. We’re extremely excited to welcome AI Rudder to the Cathay family, work closely the team and look forward to supporting them in scaling the business further onto the global stage.

Allez, Lets Go!

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Cathay Innovation
Cathay Innovation

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