Southeast Asia is one of the world’s growing hotbeds for innovation, particularly in the artificial intelligence (AI) space. New and upcoming startups and fintechs like Indonesia’s Kata.ai and Singapore’s Taiger are developing cutting-edge AI technology in computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing.
In a recent development, Seoul-based energy and telecom conglomerate SK partnered with AirAsia’s BigPay, one of Malaysia’s leading fintechs to drive AI growth in Southeast Asia. SK’s investment arm, SK South East Asia, invested $60 million to secure the rights to participate in BigPay’s pipeline of projects, including an option to invest an additional $40 million should the partnership succeed.
Through the initial investment, BigPay will have access to SK’s AI and data analytics expertise as well as its robust track record in the fintech space. This will enable BigPay to achieve its goal of becoming a top challenger bank in the region, the next step after establishing itself as a leading provider of digital banking services in Malaysia.
Earlier this year, SK partnered with Standard Chartered Bank to launch a cloud platform for integrated credit information service, a first of its kind. In June, SK teamed up with call centre firm Genesys and rolled out a cloud-based, AI-powered contact centre service that helps respond to simple and repetitive queries. The service was developed with the help of speech recognition technology and natural language processing.
Globally, AI is set to grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21%, surpassing that of the software and hardware market segments, and will eventually reach a market size of US $500 billion in 2025. As such, virtual banks and fintechs like BigPay investing in AI will definitely pose a challenge for banks in the coming years. As AI finds its way to the region, Aradhna Sharma, Southeast Asia digital and data solutions director at ADVANCE.AI, says that banks will have to capture the hearts and minds of digital consumers in the region better and faster than the newcomers are already doing. Otherwise, the old adage might help: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.