Manu Jain’s Second Act in India

Abu Dhabi’s G42, known for making the world’s largest supercomputer for AI training, Condor Galaxy, and open source Arabic LLM, Jais, is expanding its footprint in India. And it is being led by former Xiaomi frontman Manu Kumar Jain.

Joining the new team in India are Aakriti Gupta, finance director; Reema Dash, legal director; Sanuj Shah, program director; and Rahul Pal, the main person leading the company’s AI efforts for the country.

“The biggest challenge is convincing the first 5-10 team members to join, since no one knows about you. I have experienced this multiple times – from starting Jabong, to launching Xiaomi India, to now diving into the world of AI and supercomputing with G42,” said Jain, on his social media post.

While Gupta was associate director of finance at Ola, Dash has been an independent advisory lawyer since 2023 after serving as the principal associate at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. Pal has been working with G42 as an applied scientist – NLP for over two years now. Shah was the vice president of growth and strategy at Groyyo, before joining G42.

Unleashing G42’s Prowess in India

The former chief of Xiaomi, who was instrumental in bringing the company to India, joined G42 in October last year and has since been dropping subtle hints about what the company’s been up to.

Jain has been calling on Indian industry leaders in the generative AI and semiconductor space over the past couple of months. The Jabong co-founder seeks to replicate the success he achieved in scaling Xiaomi in India – this time with G42’s Indian team.

Inspired by PM Narendra Modi’s vision of building a “connected, sustainable world”, Jain met notable leaders spearheading the generative AI in Indian languages movement in India. He met Amitabh Nag, the chief executive officer of Bhashini, to discuss the “groundbreaking AI tool for real-time translation across major Indian languages”.

In an earlier interaction with AIM, Nag had said that Bhashini was the Indian government’s initiative for Indic LLMs to eliminate the language barrier in this country.

In addition to revisiting his alma mater, IIT Delhi, Jain, currently residing in Dubai, also caught up with Dr Mithesh Khapra, a professor at IIT Madras and a researcher for AI4Bharat. This research lab at IIT Madras is dedicated to developing open-source datasets, tools, models, and applications tailored for Indian languages.

Jain, emphasising the significance of AI solutions for India, commended the lab’s commitment to the Make in India initiative.

Moreover, he also met Josh Foulger, the former CEO of Foxconn India, acknowledging his remarkable contributions to the Make in India program. This acknowledgement stems from their collaborative efforts during their time working together at Xiaomi, where they jointly established multiple factories, creating job opportunities for over 50,000 fellow Indians.

G42 is a leading name in creating LLM in regional languages, besides English. Soon after Jain’s joining as the chief, the company released Jais 30B, the latest iteration of its open-source model, following the earlier release of the 13 billion parameter Jais model in August.

Leveraging the AI supercomputer Condor Galaxy 1, developed in collaboration with Cerebras Systems, Jais 30B was trained on larger datasets, boasting 126 billion Arabic tokens, 251 billion English tokens, and 50 billion code tokens. With enhanced performance, the model provides 160% longer and more detailed answers in Arabic, a 233% increase in English, and improved summarisation capabilities.

Reminiscing the Xiaomi Days

Known for his leadership acumen and accomplishments, Jain spearheaded the early growth of Xiaomi, a prominent Chinese consumer electronics brand and Samsung rival, upon its entry into the Indian market in 2014.

Under the leadership of the IIM Kolkata alumni, Xiaomi’s offerings – Redmi, MI, and Poco – became household names. The company provided competitive products in a market transitioning from feature phones to budget-friendly smartphones. The smartphone maker even expanded into wearables, smart TVs, and IoT devices, investing into Indian startups within two years. Another key figure alongside Jain was Hugo Barra, Xiaomi’s then vice president.

In 2018, the company surpassed Samsung to become the leading smartphone seller in India, narrowing the gap between the two significantly. Furthermore, the company invested in local manufacturing in India, aligning with the government’s Make in India initiative to meet the increasing demand. It also forged strong partnerships with major e-commerce platforms in India like Flipkart and Amazon.

However, after nine years of success, the company saw a sharp decline in sales in 2022, trailing behind Samsung and Vivo. It faced challenges grappling with regulatory scrutiny amid the escalating Indo-China economic tensions, and the departure of senior executives. Jain, who had been promoted as the global vice president by then, was one of them.

However, Jain’s journey has not been without controversies. Around April 2022, the ED seized over Rs 5,550 crore from Xiaomi India under the FEMA Act, 1999, for suspected illegal foreign exchange dealings. The probe found that the company transferred substantial sums to three entities abroad, including a Xiaomi group company, as ‘royalties’ from 2015. The ED believes these transfers, allegedly directed by Xiaomi’s Chinese headquarters and disguised as unrelated transactions, violated FEMA rules, as no corresponding services were provided by these entities.

The ED also called upon Jain and their India CFO, Sameer BS Rao, as part of an investigation, according to Reuters. Jain and Rao accused the ED of using threat and “violence” to obtain involuntary statements aligning with the agency’s narrative. Xiaomi claims these statements were retracted as they were made under pressure.

The ED, however, denied these allegations. This incident took place amid the increasing scrutiny of Chinese companies in India, especially after the 2020 border clash, leading to stricter regulations and app bans.

Shortly after, Jain departed from the company to “take some time-off”, before taking up his next professional challenge.

“I am a builder at heart and would love to build something new, ideally in a new industry,” said Jain. He joined G42 the following October to spearhead its operations in India. Known for his track record as a serial entrepreneur, Jain has earned accolades for making a real impact.

Jain looks like the best fit for G42’s foray into India. Mirroring Xiaomi’s trail, he is set to accelerate the Middle Eastern company’s presence in India.

The post Manu Jain’s Second Act in India appeared first on Analytics India Magazine.

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