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Silicon Valley start-up looking to sell AI system to BPO firms

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By Janina C. Lim, Reporter

A Silicon Valley-based tech start-up is set to sign a contract with a major business process outsourcing player in the country to introduce its artificial intelligence (AI) system, which can take three calls at a time.

George Y. Yang, Founder and CEO of AI Pros, said the firm is looking at generating P1 billion in the sale of its AI called named Filicia in the next three to five years. However, the technology is not open for all and interested buyers will have to undertake a critical qualification review.

Currently, AI Pros is in the process of selecting which call center company it will be signing a contract with. The top five major players in the industry are vying to bag AI Pros’ software, according to Mr. Yang.

The main criterion will be the company’s “Filipino-oriented” principle, which refers to the size of the company’s footprint in the country compared with its global presence.

“We want it to be a showcase to the rest of the world that,”Hey, it can be done here,” Mr. Yang said in a press briefing with the Department of Trade and Industry Wednesday in Makati City, as he explained why he was strict about having Filipino shareholders only.




In an interview, he added that several BPOs from other countries, including the top two biggest in the industry, have expressed interest in AI Pros technology but Mr. Yang said he turned these proposals down.

“I’ve been very tough about it. If you wanna grow your business, you grow it in the Philippines,” Mr. Yang added in an interview on Wednesday.

However, this may run counter with the fact that the biggest BPO companies are only local units of multinational firms.

Asked on the investments AI Pros made to establish the software, Mr. Yang said these investments are “difficult to quantify” as they come in the form of intellectual property.

The firm said it is eyeing to hire 300,000 workers in the process.

Employees who will handle the AI-powered system will merely serve an oversight function to ensure that calls, being done by the machine-learning computer, will run smoothly from beginning to end.

For its part, the Department of Trade and Industry will partner with AI Pros to link the needed employees, who may or may not be from the BPO sector, to the company.

Hindi naman lahat kukunin outside sa system. Yung mga not in the system na gustong maretrain, siyempre mawawalan sila ng trabaho, they’ll be the ones that will be tapped. Mag-apply din sila dito (Not all who will be employed are outside the BPO system. Those who will lose their jobs will be tapped),”Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters on Wednesday.

Asked to expound on the Filipino-oriented criterion, Mr. Lopez said: “Mas malaki ang operation dito sa Pilipinas (The BPO company has to have a huge operation here in the Philippines) compared to other countries who will benefit from this technology.”

Dapat magregister ng (It should register) interest sa (in) DTI. Reserba na (It should allot) additional workforce,” Mr. Lopez added.

The official assured that AI will only enhance current jobs. Although admitting that there will be an impact on about half of the 1.3 million jobs in the sector, the workers will be trained to gain skills that will help them cater to other jobs in the sectors.

The overall initiative of promoting AI, which the Department of Information, Communication and Technology will also take part of in the aim of providing fast internet service, is expected to generate about 482,000 unskilled workers to handle low-skilled work, 525,000 low-skilled workers to handle mid-level skill work, and 309,000 mid-skilled workers to do high-level tasks.