From Rajkot to OpenAI: Journey of a Techie Smashing Barriers

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Shyamal Hitesh Anadkat works with the ‘Go to Market’ (GTM) team of OpenAI, one of the most sought-after AI startups globally. However, his journey towards OpenAI began many years ago in Gujarat’s Rajkot, a Tier-2 city recognised for its manufacturing industries and real estate sector, not particularly for technology.

Born into an entrepreneurial family, Anadkat was influenced by tech at a very young age. He learned C, his first programming language in Class XI. The very next year, he worked on a research paper on statistics and probability. “I was always interested in tech and was extremely fascinated by physics and maths,” he told AIM.

Human-machine interaction

Anadkat’s love for technology led him to the States in 2014 where enrolled for an industrial engineering programme at the University of Wisconsin. That was the time when he learnt his second programming language- Java.

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“Learning Java fascinated me and opened up the possibilities in computer engineering for me. Hence, I pursued a double major in computer engineering and computer science,” he explained.

During his time at Wisconsin, Anadkat was involved in research and also worked on a robot that read books to children. “That was my introduction to human-computer interaction, not just the UX side of things, but actually how humans have interacted with machines. And all of this opened me up for the beautiful world of AI and ML.”

Deep dive into AI

After completing his undergraduate programme, Anadkat worked as a senior software engineer at Grubhub-based in Chicago. “I worked there for three years. That place opened up my perspective around what’s possible with machine learning. Now I wanted to dive deep and go all in, so I went to Duke University in North Carolina and studied AI and entrepreneurship.”

During his time at Duke, Anadkat worked on a text-to-image model that created NFTs used to evangelise climate change. By now, he had a lot of exposure to AI and while he was at Duke, OpenAI was already on his radar. “I connected well with the mission of OpenAI, which is to build AGI for the betterment of humanity. I actively started pursuing the opportunity.”

OpenAI startups strategy

When the opportunity arrived, Anadkat made full use of his background in tech and AI and grabbed it with both hands. He joined OpenAI in August 2022 and currently leads startup partnerships at OpenAI where the team works with a lot of founders and accelerators like Y Combinator and Tier-1 and 2 VCs.

As part of OpenAI’s startups strategy, OpenAI is extending platform credits as well as resources to startups that want to build on top of OpenAI’s platform. “We’re doing a lot of what we call ‘OpenAI days’ with select VCs at our headquarters, where we invite companies for a developer event to come and understand the technology, talk to experts at OpenAI, and participate in a hackathon where they can build something that they can deploy,” he said.

Enterprises are increasingly adopting OpenAI. “We have companies like Quizlet, Snapchat, Instacart, Shopify, Ironclad, Ada, and Stripe already using our APIs. As a part of our GTM strategy, we work closely with these companies to get feedback on our models, which, in turn, helps make our models more reliable, more extensible, and scalable.”

Demand among Indian enterprises

When it comes to Indian startups, Anadkat mentions and Jio Haptik as conversational AI platforms looking to integrate ChatGPT or other OpenAI APIs into their respective platforms. Gushup, another startup in the same space, is already helping enterprises build ChatGPT-like chatbots by leveraging large language models like GPT-3 and GPT-4.

“These companies are figuring out how they can integrate OpenAI APIs as part of some of those dynamic AI agent experiences, and voice bots that can automate interaction with the customers and employees to deliver a lot of actionable outcomes at a significantly lower cost.”

Besides, Anadkat mentions that he is also seeing a lot of demand in the e-commerce and consumer packaged goods (CPG) space. “In fact, a company called Canary Mail, based in Rajkot, is using GPT-3 to build a mail client. Most probably, it is the one of the only VC backed companies in Rajkot to leverage our technologies.”

He also believes OpenAI technology will become more prevalent in India. “India has huge potential and it’s a big market for OpenAI. We will see a lot of adoption here across verticals like customer service, marketing, copywriting, and so on.”

India should be at the forefront of AI

Anadkat believes India has the potential to be at the forefront of AI because the country has great internet connectivity and a good trajectory in terms of digital literacy. “I think, as a country, we should do our best to make sure we are at the top of this technology. In fact, India should be an AI hub.”

GPT-4, which is now available in India through ChatGPT Plus, could open the doors to greater adoption of AI among Indian enterprises. “GPT-4 is multilingual and is good at Hindi and Gujarati, among other languages.

Whisper, our speech-to-text API, is also multilingual and supports 95+ languages. Besides, these models will only keep getting better at multilingual capabilities and this could potentially open the doors for greater adoption.”

Pritam Bordoloi
I have a keen interest in creative writing and artificial intelligence. As a journalist, I deep dive into the world of technology and analyse how it’s restructuring business models and reshaping society.

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