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Microsoft buys conversational AI and bot development company

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San Francisco, Nov 16: Microsoft has announced to acquire a conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bot development company XOXCO for an undisclosed sum.

Texas-based XOXCO has been paving the way in conversational AI since 2013 and was responsible for the creation of Howdy, the first commercially available bot for Slack that helps schedule meetings.

“It also developed Botkit which provides the development tools used by hundreds of thousands of developers on GitHub. Over the years, we have partnered with XOXCO and have been inspired by this work,” said Lili Cheng, Corporate Vice President, Conversational AI at Microsoft on Thursday.

Conversational AI is quickly becoming a way in which businesses engage with employees and customers — from creating virtual assistants and redesigning customer interactions to using conversational assistants to help employees communicate and work better together.

According to Gartner, “by 2020, conversational artificial intelligence will be a supported user experience for more than 50 percent of large, consumer-centric enterprises”.

The Microsoft Bot Framework, available as a service in Azure and on GitHub, today supports over 360,000 developers.

“With this acquisition, we are continuing to realise our approach of democratising AI development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate,” said Cheng.

Over the last six months, Microsoft has made several strategic acquisitions to accelerate the pace of AI development.

The acquisition of Semantic Machines in May brought a revolutionary new approach to conversational AI.

In July, it acquired Bonsai to help reduce the barriers to AI development by combining machine teaching, reinforcement learning and simulation.

In September, Microsoft acquired Lobe, a company that has created a simple visual interface empowering anyone to develop and apply deep learning and AI models quickly, without writing code.

“The acquisition of GitHub in October demonstrates our belief in the power of communities to help fuel the next wave of bot development,” Microsoft said.

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“How To Destroy An Economy”: Rahul Gandhi’s Latest Swipe At Government

Kaushik Basu, who served as Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry, tweeted a warning to the centre: “Don’t be in data denial… take corrective action…”

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New Delhi: Congress MP Rahul Gandhi this afternoon cited figures collated by renowned economist Kaushik Basu – which project India’s GDP as contracting the most among a selection of 11 Asian nations, including China – to take yet another swipe at the government.

“How to completely destroy an economy and infect the maximum number of people really quickly,” Mr Gandhi tweeted, with a data table showing projected GDP growth (for 2020) for 11 Asian countries and the number of coronavirus-related deaths (per million) for each.

India, with a projected GDP contraction of 10.3 per cent (according to a IMF report released ealier last week) and 83 Covid-related deaths per million, is at the bottom of a list that includes China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a report released last Tuesday, said it expected India’s economy to shrink by 10.3 per cent – a huge downward revision from its June prediction for a government under pressure over its handling of the pandemic and the economic fallout.

Kaushik Basu, who served as Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry, tweeted another warning today: “Don’t be in data denial. Mistakes happen-admit & take corrective action…”

In August the government said India’s GDP had contracted by 23.9 per cent – much worse than expected – in April-June, as the pandemic brought key industries to a halt and left millions jobless.

Mr Gandhi tore into that revelation, accusing the government of ignoring repeated warnings from experts on the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic had affected the economy

The government has since claimed a recovery of sorts – on both fronts.

Earlier this month the Finance Ministry said “demand resurgence is palpable in many sectors” and yesterday a government-appointed committee said the country had crossed the coronavirus peak.

One of the points claimed by the committee was that the early lockdown, which triggered the economic problems – had significantly helped reduce the number of deaths due to the virus.

Meanwhile, apart from highlighting a potentially difficult 2020 for India’s GDP (something several economists and reports have already flagged), the IMF report triggered another row when it suggested that India’s per capita GDP is set to drop below that of Bangladesh.

Rahul Gandhi pounced on that as well, tweeting: “Solid achievement of 6 years of BJP’s hate-filled cultural nationalism. Bangladesh set to overtake India”.

Shortly after that government sources issued a clarification, claiming that in terms of purchasing power parity – a measure of GDP that accounts for relative differences between countries – India’s per capita GDP in 2019 was actually 11 times higher than that of Bangladesh.

China, which according to the data sheet shared first by Mr Basu and then Mr Gandhi, is projected to record positive GDP growth – 1.9 per cent – this year.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, is to record an impressive 3.8 per cent GDP growth for 2020.

This afternoon China released its July-September GDP figures and said its economy had grown by 4.9 per cent – the same as last year and only marginally below the expected 5.2 per cent.

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Adani, Piramal among bidders for bankrupt DHFL

In November last year, the Reserve Bank of India referred DHFL for bankruptcy under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

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Mumbai, Oct 18 : Adani Group, Piramal Enterprises, US-based Oaktree and Hong Kong-headquartered SC Lowy have submitted their bids for the insolvent Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd (DHFL), sources said.

The deadline to submit bids for DHFL ended on Saturday.

According to sources, Adani Group has bid for the wholesale and slum rehabilitation authority portfolio. Piramal Enterprises, on the other hand, has bid for its retail business.

Further, Oaktree has submitted a resolution proposal for the entire company with a bid value of Rs 20,000 crore.

The admitted debt of the insolvent NBFC is over Rs 90,000 crore.

In November last year, the Reserve Bank of India referred DHFL for bankruptcy under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). Its resolution is now underway at the Mumbai bench of NCLT.

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Weak institutional participation leading to consolidation of equity markets

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Mumbai, Oct 18 : Weak institutional investment from domestic institutional investors (DII) and foreign portfolio investors (FPI) since September have led the Indian equity markets into a consolidation phase, according to a report by ICICI Securities.

The report noted that the sharp bounce back by the market after the lows in March was in anticipation of normalising economic activity, which has shown up in terms of high frequency data in September including PMI, GST collection, electricity demand, improving exports, wholesale auto sales.

“Institutional flows both from DIIs and FPI’s have turned weak since Sep as sharp upside in stocks since March lows turns equity valuations expensive. Weak institutional participation is resulting in a consolidation phase for equity markets currently,” it said.

It noted that current market behaviour of muted flows by institutional investors and the resultant consolidation in stock prices imply economic activity may plateau going forward after normalising to pre-Covid levels.

Expecting economic activity to rise beyond pre-Covid level without large fiscal and monetary stimulus would be erroneous as aggregate demand in the economy was already weak before the impact of the pandemic, it said.

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