India CEO criticised for picking AI bot over human staff

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DukaanIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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The bot has cut down response resolution time, Mr Shah said

An Indian CEO is being criticised after he said that his firm had replaced 90% of its support staff with an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot.

Suumit Shah, founder of Dukaan, said on Twitter that the chatbot had drastically improved first response and resolution time of customers’ queries.

The tweet sparked outrage online.

It comes at a time when there has been a lot of conversation and apprehension about AI taking away people’s jobs, specially in the services industry.

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In a series of tweets, which have over one million views, Mr Shah wrote about his firm’s decision to use a chatbot. He said that though laying off staff had been a “tough” decision, it was “necessary”.

“Given the state of economy, start-ups are prioritising ‘profitability’ over striving to become ‘unicorns’, and so are we,” he wrote. Mr Shah added that customer support had been a struggle for the firm for a long time and that he was looking to fix this.

He also wrote about how they built the bot and the AI platform in a short span of time so that all of Dukaan’s customers could have their own AI assistant. He said that the bot was answering all kinds of queries with speed and accuracy.

“In the age of instant gratification, launching a business is not a distant dream anymore,” he wrote. “With the right idea, the right team, anyone can turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality.”

Mr Shah also added that the firm was hiring for multiple roles.

However, many users criticised his tweets and accused him of disrupting the lives of his staff with this “heartless” decision.

“As expected, didn’t find any mention about the 90% staff that were laid off. What assistance were they provided?” asked one user.

“Maybe it was the right decision for the business, but it shouldn’t have turned into a celebratory/marketing thread about it,” said another.

Mr Shah responded to one tweet saying “as expected, someone will get offended on behalf of someone else” and added that he would post about assistance for his staff on LinkedIn, because on Twitter, people are in search of “profitability and not sympathy”.

In recent years, generative AI tools like ChatGPT have proliferated and become more accessible. There have been reports of organisations using these tools to increase productivity while cutting costs. This has made workers fearful about losing their jobs to technology.

In March, Goldman Sachs published a report showing that AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs. In India, several firms are investing into AI to develop products and it has sparked concerns about job losses.

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