Picture courtesy: twitter ; ICICI was the first bank to introduce Software Robotics for power banking operations.

India’s first banking software robot named Lakshmi was launched on Nov. 10 in Chennai. The robot is engaging, interactive and processes data with lightning speed. Created by the City Union Bank based in Kumbakonam, the artificial tech intelligence energized robot will be the first on-site bank assistant.

HDFC Bank, the top private lender is also currently testing robots to work on their response to customer queries accurately. They are experimenting with the humanoid at their innovation lab. Lakshmi, however,  took more than six months  to come out of the laboratory. She has the engineered intelligence to answer questions on more than 125 topics.

The humanoid developed using software robotics, is capable of answering anything. For instance, it can state one’s account balance, interest rates on home loans, deferred payments and possible prices to be levied on fixed deposit closure.

N Kamakodi, the MD and CEO of City Union Bank said, “Apart from answering generic questions, we have also programmed it to connect to the core banking solution. If a customer wants to know his bank account details or transaction history, the robot can flash the answer on its display”.

Confidential economic information like account details are shown discreetly on the display screen of the robot and are not voiced out loud. The CEO jokingly added, “Lakshmi only talks out loud on generic subjects. If you visited our branch with your girlfriend, she won’t embarrass you by showing your low account balance”.

She is at present fluent in English. She is a very endearing and has a human-like demeanour. A distinctive characteristic of this robot is that her tone of speech is quite informal and casual unlike conventional robots. A bank executive of the City Union Bank told, “Since it’s artificial intelligence, the robot is constantly learning from customers – the more interactions it has with customers the better it gets”.

But if at all a question stumps Lakshmi and she is unable to answer, she is programmed to ask the customer to get in touch with the manager. Vijay V Shah, its assembler from Vishnu Engineering based in Coimbatore said, “She then asks you to get in touch with the branch manager. But at the back-end, we will be collecting all the questions she was unable to answer and equip her with better data sets, so she can service customers. Today she can give real time updates of foreign exchange movement, current interest rates at banks for different asset classes like personal, educational, two-wheeler and home loans, possible charges on withdrawals or deposits. But going forward, she might be able to more than that”.

In the coming few months, the bank’s other objective is to input data in the robot so that it addresses customers in Tamil. “We are also looking at enabling it so that it can service visually challenged individuals. Worldwide very few banks employ robots at branches and we want to bring a whole new experience to India,” said CEO Kamakodi.

The City Union has launched only the first version of Lakshmi, the bank is aiming at 25-30 robots. They will be established at main key branches by the end of 2016 if Lakshmi performs or relates well with the people. The bank was initially planning on the robot’s debut on Thursday at their T.Nagar branch. But due to the sudden demonetization policy, the customers frequented the branch primarily to exchange the withdrawn 500 and 1000 notes. Therefore, Lakshmi might be made public only on Monday.