„I have always had a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm“, Ayesha Khanna says with her big smile that brightens up rooms and halls. „I think that I am led by awe“, she continues. „I want to be inspired. And once I’m inspired, it is very difficult for the highs and lows and anything I undertake, to detract me from my goal.“
Very true so. Ayesha Khanna worked on Wall Street for 10 years on large scale trading systems. She is Co-Founder and CEO of ADDO AI, an artificial intelligence (AI) solutions firm and incubator. She has been a strategic advisor on artificial intelligence, smart cities and fintech to leading corporations and governments. Ayesha also serves on the Board of Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the Singapore government’s agency that develops its world-class technology sector to drive the country’s digital economy and power its Smart Nation vision. She says: „I think that it starts with one person as a founder, it starts with that persons passion, with that persons visions. But without surrounding yourself with people who in many ways are better than you, smarter than you, more creative than you, when that chemistry happens, then you are unstoppable.“
She explains that the environment she was surrounded with was extremely condusive for her. It gave her the confidence to think „you can do anything“. Between her parents and Harvard as an undergraduate, she says that she became fearless. After her graduation from Harvard, Ayesha Khanna went to New York where she not only fell in love with the city and the culture, but also with technology. Her focus on technology and smart cities led her to Singapore in 2012. She narrates: „We started in Singapore. It is a small country but encourages a very global mindset.“
Being brought up in Pakistan, the developing countries mean a lot to her. She quickly saw that Artificial Intelligence could lower the cots of access to services such as healthcare, transport, buildings. Ayesha Khanna: „All of these things can be made cheaper and more accessible with Artificial Intelligence.“ So her team and her started to build a customer service automation plattform. „So that anybody in Asia can talk to a bank or a telco in their own regional language. They can talk to a phone and the Artificial Intelligence chat bot will give them the information.“ And she asks: „Do you know how frustrating it is for poor people or middle class people, how many hours you spend in lines? Only the elite get access to certain information. The injustice in this drives me mad.“
Ayesha Khannas other big topic are smart cities. She believes that „smart cities are much more about the people who live in them and the public-private collaborations that develop citizen services.“ She explained in an article on silverkris.com that „in fact, a broader term for it might be something like what Singapore has developed: a “smart nation” supported by a foundation of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT). Increasingly, we’re seeing the notion of “smart” as encompassing human-centricity, empathy and interdisciplinary approaches.
She also sees big potential for developing cities. As she wrote on Silverkris.com: „Smart technology will impact developing cities too. Cities attract people by providing good healthcare, education and basic infrastructure. And in the past, poorer cities couldn’t really compete. But because of digital services, there’s an opportunity for so-called second-tier and third-tier cities to also have access to some things that were not previously possible.“
Ayesha Khanna has also founded a charity that teaches girls coding. „If I see a day in Singapore five years from now, where many of the girls graduated from our program, are now working, are entrepreneurs, and I have the creative confidence, when they sit in board rooms, not to shrink back when somebody talks about technology. But to be bold, and building new services.“ Ayesha Khanna seems rather unstoppable. Her overwhelming power and joy are pretty irrestistable.