HTLS 2023: Will AI eat your job? Truecaller CEO Alan Mamedi explains why he's ‘not so worried’

Nov 03, 2023 11:27 PM IST

Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2023: India accounts for 70% of Truecaller's total revenue and Alan Mamedi described India as “our home market”.

While Artificial Intelligence or AI has expanded its capabilities to perform tasks that were previously believed to be exclusive to humans, it has also raised concerns that machines may replace humans in workplaces. However, Alan Mamedi, CEO and co-founder of caller ID and spam-blocking app Truecaller, believes AI will actually create more jobs for people in the future. Speaking on Day 4 of the 21st edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Mamedi described India as the “home market of Truecaller".

Alan Mamedi, CEO and co-founder of Truecaller, on Day 4 of Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Alan Mamedi, CEO and co-founder of Truecaller, on Day 4 of Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

Today, Truecaller is an essential part of everyday communication for over 356 million active users, with over a billion downloads since its launch. As CEO, Mamedi focuses on product development and innovation and leading growth opportunities globally. Prior to Truecaller, he was the chief architect for the device management server at Birdstep Technology, a company specialising in embedded data systems that is currently listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (BIRD).

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At HTLS, when asked about concerns over AI in the future, Mamedi admitted that there is a lot of buzz around it and how this will transform the world. “But then, humanity are good species and I think, we will figure out ways to to use this technology in the best possible way,” he said.

“In the coming years, I actually see a lot of opportunities for for everyone, but of course, there are downsides to this as well, or risks when we make computers more intelligent and and so forth,” he added.

Will AI replace humans in workplaces?

Mamedi thinks every time there's a change in technology, there is something new and revolutionary to some degree. "We are always afraid that it will take work away from us, but if you look you know back at the last 50 years how the industry has become more efficient with robots that create products for us and computers that make it easier for us to document and type, compared to what it was before with writing machines, every company still needs more people. So, I think what will happen is just that we will be more productive, but we will still need more people to do parts of the craft that are needed… Therefore, I am not so worried about that, but in the long term, what does that mean – the whole curriculum system will need to adapt so that we educate the next generation to be more experts in these fields, just like we are doing today with educating people to become engineers and so forth.”

The Trucaller co-founder, however, said society in itself has a big responsibility at the same time. “We will still need a lot of other expertise like a plumber, for example – there's a lack of plumbers everywhere in the world or electricians, or bus drivers. So, we will have enough work for everyone for many many years and I think this will just in some way, ironically, AI will create more jobs for people in the future,” he explained.

How is Truecaller using AI-based technology?

Truecaller will use parts of what exists like open-source services or commoditise services, but on top of that, it will build its own in-house model or things to adapt to this, he said.

"So, we will have different layers and I think every company will need their own customised layer for their purpose and that layer will be built based on their own needs. In our case, we want to understand if this caller is a fraudster or a scammer and how can we detect that. Today, Truecaller works with the help of the community. We can get to know whether this is a good actor or a bad actor, and it might require 100 users to say this is a bad actor for us to understand the signals. But with the help of machine learning models, maybe 10 people would be enough and we train the data based on that,” Mamedi said.

Regulation of artificial intelligence

Responding to a question a regulating AI, Mamedi said everyone needs to be educated about the potential of it and then come to some sort of a universal and global agreement on how to do it.

"The ones who are working with this will need to spend a lot of time understanding history and understanding the capabilities of this technology I think what we have in front of us is probably in the magnitude of a nuclear bomb… Then come to some sort of a universal and global agreement on how we do it. But when it comes to the interest of different nations that's when you will have a tricky situation where I think everyone needs to come together and understand the potential of it,” he said.

Journey from a very tough childhood to Truecaller founder

"If you look at many of the successful entrepreneurs in India, most of them came from a very limited background. So that creates grit in you as a person. I have seen it in myself I want to achieve something to prove to other people that I too can do this. So getting that grit and that sort of empowerment inside you that you should never give up, you should always strive for the best is something that I don't think you are born with, but you get raised into that in some way… Once you start seeing how the world looks like in the professional world, at least from my perspective, the things I did not like that I saw in real life, those things I did not want to apply to my company just because it happens – that every company has these policies, doesn't necessarily mean that your company should have it too,” the Truecaller CEO said.

The beginning of Truecaller

“We started a project together – like two friends wanted to do something fun and we wanted to solve a problem that we had ourselves faced back in the days, and it turned out that many other people had the same problem. We are still excited about the vision to make your communication safer… The problem is even bigger today than it was 15 years ago and obviously, the reason is because everything has become digitalised – your bank accounts are accessible from your phone. So, you are so vulnerable today that this problem will just continue to grow and it's a universal problem, it's a global problem and I think the relevance of Truecaller has never been this strong.”

Side-effects of technology in future

Speaking on the challenges in the future, Mamedi said the technology will become accessible for everyone and anyone could go into a website and create thousands of new phone numbers just by writing a simple script and using AI models to manipulate someone's voice by recording five seconds of that voice.

"Then you can imagine how easily you can build an engine that just starts to send out calls to millions of people every second and with fake voices trying to pretend to be your uncle that he needs money, for example. The challenges we will have in front of us as Truecaller will be quite big from a technology standpoint,” he said.

Truecaller market in India

India accounts for 70% of Truecaller's total revenue and Mamedi described India as “our home market”. “It's always been a priority for us and that's why the numbers are the way they are – a big chunk of our engineering and product teams are based in Bangalore. So, it makes a lot of sense and the market has such a huge potential. While the rest of the world has a negative GDP growth, this year and next year, India is actually expected to grow by over 6%. So, it's an opportunity and it's a very exciting market with a young population. I think the rest of the world has a lot to learn from the Indian market and every time we build new products we always launch it in our home market India first and then in other markets,” he further explained.

On new features of Truecaller

“The whole investment that we are doing in cloud telecom services with the AI assistant, for example. These are very exciting challenges that we are working on. In the long term, we would love for Truecaller to just take all the calls you don't you even bother about, but for those calls that are important to you, the system will hand it over to you. Basically to make sure that you actually save time,” Mamedi said.

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