Established in 2015, Prixa Technologies is among the fast-growing IT companies in Nepal specializing in artificial intelligence (AI), news websites, mobile apps, big data, content management systems, cloud hosting, IT consultation services, and social media marketing and employs over 70 professionals. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and a gold medalist of Pulchowk Campus, Manish Sharma is the co-founder and CEO of Prixa. ApEx talked to Sharma to learn about the IT industry in Nepal. Excerpts:
What is Prixa currently working on?
At Prixa, we recognize Nepal’s need to adopt modern technologies for growth, while acknowledging that costly foreign solutions often don’t fulfill the needs of the local market. Our main objective is to maximize technology adoption in Nepal by providing affordable, cutting-edge solutions tailored to local businesses and communities, fostering innovation and enabling them to become competitive in the rapidly changing global technology landscape. For instance, we are currently developing AI solutions targeted at the local languages in the Nepali market.
We have diversified into different verticals. Over 50 media companies are our clients running on our Snowberry platform. We also work in the sector of advertisement analytics, large-scale cloud computing, display technologies, enterprise software solutions, etc.
We operate one of the largest content delivery networks in Nepal scaling to billions of requests each month. We have also increased our efforts in the Internet of Things (IoT). For instance, we are working with government bodies to make low-cost high-precision weather forecast solutions in remote locations.
How do you view the current state of Nepal’s IT infrastructure?
The IT industry here works in multiple models. For instance, some companies are just upgrading for Nepali clients while the majority of them cater to international clients with mixed models and some are exclusively working for foreign companies.
There are lots of challenges for countries like Nepal. Nepal needs to upgrade on a policy basis. We still need a foreign solution to solve our problems but we do not have an easy channel for payment and interaction. We are working with a bunch of cloud providers but we still are facing the hassle of payment. Yet, the IT industry is growing rapidly.
How do you see Nepali media websites vis-à-vis the international market?
I think media websites in Nepal are more advertisement centric. Business strategies are obviously essential to be sustainable in a market but, currently, we have been observing in our clients that their strategies are deviating towards subscription based for a better experience. The company itself has fully developed user personalization. Besides, I don’t think the media itself is fully prepared for investing on their websites. But, hopefully, with time, it will get better from all dimensions.
Riri One is Prixa’s ambitious AI project. Is it a breakthrough for digital media?
Riri One was specially designed for services that concern a text-to-speech engine for Nepali languages like Nepali, Newari, and Maithili to create inclusivity in our society of diversified communities. Riri also has Riri Two and Three which will be released soon. Riri Two understands what people are saying. It’s a speech-to-text engine and it is in the pilot phase. While Riri Three is a full end-to-end conversational engine.
I feel grateful for collaborating with Annapurna Media Network for Riri One. It’s not a new thing about text-to-speech being launched as it already existed in some smaller projects. But the new breakthrough is that Riri production is life-like and in the Nepali media industry, it is the first of its kind. We are still in beta and there are many things to update.
We are seeing a high rate of user response and engagement. We have worked with over 50 media houses but we are seeing the breakthrough for the very first time. Looking at the statistics, we could find that users are consuming audio news more. I believe it’s a great step to fill a gap in the digital media sector.
Web security has emerged as a major concern lately. Why are our government websites so vulnerable?
In the IT sector, 100 percent data security cannot be guaranteed. Having said that, I wouldn’t deny the fact that data security is a baseline responsibility of IT. I would say that carelessness in practicing ground practices could be one of those problems.
The recent hack incident is being seriously investigated by the government. They have even established a security task force and hopefully, it will bring a positive outcome. The management team needs to scrutinize the bottlenecks and the government should be prioritizing fundamental security practices.
The government has been managing sensitive data and has been archiving it in digitized form. So, the data breach could hamper public privacy and national security. The common responsibility needs to be examined such that IT companies and the government can coordinate to solve the problems. The data breach is not just a crucial problem in the government sector but also in the private sector.
What advice do you have for IT aspirants?
I suggest they explore the opportunities in diversified fields but they should be more careful about preparing themselves in a certain direction from ground level. They mustn’t think the opportunities reside only abroad. I would count myself as an example as I had abroad studies and I am doing something here in Nepal by myself and so are my colleagues. We are also accepting freshers in our company to help the aspirants. As this sector is diversified, the more you delve into it, the more you explore the problem and the more you seek out opportunities within the challenges because there are oceans of things that are left undone.
What new trends in AI are emerging currently?
Rapid advancements in generative AI, such as Chat GPT, Bard AI, LLaMA AI, and many more, have been achieved. The blockchain concept is being adopted by businesses, and decentralized technologies are likewise expanding. Nepal is among the top countries to log in to Chat GPT which shows how interested Nepalis are in new IT trends. The world is advancing with AI, and I think Nepal shouldn’t fall behind. This is how the business world is going toward the AI-driven landscape, which could eventually change quickly and drastically in the future.