The chief executive of an Indian tech startup has laid off 90 per cent of the company’s support staff in favour of a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence.

Suumit Shah, founder and CEO of Bangalore-based e-commerce company Dukaan, said that the bot, which was built by one of the firm’s data scientists, could respond to initial queries instantly, compared to staff taking an average of one minute and 44 seconds.

Shah, who founded the company in 2020, said the layoffs were ‘tough’ but ‘necessary,’ during a time that many others in the tech industry and elsewhere are unsure about their job security as AI‘s presence grows. 

The time taken to resolve a customer’s issue also apparently dropped by almost 98 per cent on average when using the chatbot – from two hours and 13 minutes, to three minutes and 12 seconds.

His company’s move is just a small part of the global trend towards AI, which has seen plenty of other job losses

Suumit Shah is CEO and founder of Dukaan - an e-commerce company based in Bangalore, India

Suumit Shah is CEO and founder of Dukaan - an e-commerce company based in Bangalore, India

Suumit Shah is CEO and founder of Dukaan – an e-commerce company based in Bangalore, India

He shared a thread on Twitter detailing how he had replaced 90 per cent of his customer support staff with an AI chatbot

He shared a thread on Twitter detailing how he had replaced 90 per cent of his customer support staff with an AI chatbot

He shared a thread on Twitter detailing how he had replaced 90 per cent of his customer support staff with an AI chatbot 

The company's move is just a small part of the global move towards AI, which has seen plenty of other job losses

The company's move is just a small part of the global move towards AI, which has seen plenty of other job losses

The company’s move is just a small part of the global move towards AI, which has seen plenty of other job losses

He tweeted in a thread: ‘Given the state of [the] economy, startups are prioritizing “profitability” over striving to become “unicorns,” and so are we.’ 

Shah added that the job cuts have cut the cost of its customer support function by about 85 per cent, an area which had been a long-term problem for them.

Shah told CNN that the 23 layoffs were made in September, but his announcement was only on Monday. 

He added that he believed ‘in a future where AI and humans work together,’ and that he was interested in also developing ways for AI to take over other parts of business. 

The tech founder ended by saying that Dukaan were still hiring for multiple roles, which include roles in engineering, marketing and sales, according to their website.

However, the majority of viewers of the tweet were seemingly less impressed in his change to the company.

In particular, commenters seemed struck by the tone of the thread in the context of it relating directly to large-scale job losses.

Many saw it as showing a ‘lack of empathy,’ or as ‘disrespectful’ by the CEO. 

One said: ‘I don’t think someone losing their jobs is something to boast about.’

This sentiment was echoed by many, with one adding that it was ‘extremely disrespectful towards all the people who were laid off,’ and ‘leaves such a bad taste.’

Someone else responded with a clown emoji saying: ‘This guy [is] feeling so bad about them that he posted an entire thread on it.’

Another described it as a ‘new low’ done for marketing, adding that ‘you could’ve just said nothing.’

Shah responded to some of the criticism restating that ‘it was a tough decision.’ 

He added: ‘As expected, ‘”someone” will get offended on behalf of “someone else.”‘

He then suggested that people on Twitter were only interested in reading about profitability than sympathy.

Responses, once again, suggested otherwise, with one person saying ‘I pity the people who work for you. Also happy for people who got fired because they no longer have to work with you.’ 

Commenters seemed struck by the tone of the thread in the context of it relating directly to large-scale job losses

Commenters seemed struck by the tone of the thread in the context of it relating directly to large-scale job losses

Commenters seemed struck by the tone of the thread in the context of it relating directly to large-scale job losses

However, Dukaan is certainly not the first company to drop staff in a switch towards AI, albeit not every CEO who does so tweets a thread about the decision.

Furthermore, in May, a report by the World Economic Forum predicts AI will lead to 83 million jobs being lost between now and 2027.

The jobs widely expected to be most at risk are those which involve low levels of emotional input, and follow a structured set of rules.

These may include analyst roles, software engineers, and accountants. 

Other experts have given even starker warnings, such as the possibility of 80 per cent of human careers being taken by bots ‘in the next few years,’ as companies seek to gain a competitive advantage at the expense of their human workforce.

As a result, many industry leaders such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak have been calling for a pause in AI development, signing an open letter in March asking for a six-month hiatus.

Another dramatic move was that of AI ‘Godfather’ Geoffery Hinton, who quit Google this year while warning about AI – comparing it to the atomic bomb. 

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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