Interview with Spriha Biswas, Chief Product Officer, Augnito, an AI based speech to text tool
Spriha is a quintessential “good student” from a middle-income Indian household. Never stood 2nd in academics from Montessori till 12th and aced a lot of extracurricular activities.
She is trained in Fine Arts, won over 150 competitions in painting, debates and essays, got invited to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, met the Vice President of India – you get the picture.
She was the first person from her town who became the National Topper of ICSE 2011 (Xth Boards, 98.8%) and after that she qualified IIT JEE and went to pursue Metallurgical Engineering & Material Sciences in IIT Bombay.
While she was a teenager, two things happened – She learnt how to code in school and she found her calling in the world of business.
She was very fascinated by video games and how they are a perfect amalgamation of complex algorithms, arts and psychology.
She learnt basic programming in school and started making small games. One of her proudest moments was building a Minesweeper version in Java!
She grew up in Tatanagar (Jamshedpur). 2 generations of her family worked at Tata Steel. When she was 15, she came across the story of J.N. Tata and all the leaders who built Tata over the years. It deeply inspired her.
She chose to go to IIT Bombay because she knew it had a good ecosystem for entrepreneurs. At IIT, she taught herself how to code in multiple languages, and went about building all sorts of applications.
In 2 years, she had coded for about ~ 20 different applications for startups including a fitness app to track body movements using Kinect and an app for India’s first digital microscope, Cilika.
And she had also built and sold a Feedback app to a club in the city.At Augnito, she drives the research and product strategy and vision – making sure they are solving the right problems – Analysing where Voice AI can create the maximum impact across the continuum of care.
Her approach to building Voice AI for healthcare is to always have the clinician and the context in which they are going to use the product at the core of all the decision making. And it’s not a one size fits all solution.
Tell us a little about yourself
Spriha Biswas: My story begins rather unconventionally. I am a national-topper-turned-IIT-dropout. After ranking first in the ICSE, I ventured into the hallowed halls of IIT Bombay. However, mid-way through the experience—my passion for building products & businesses took center stage.
I decided to pursue and commit to it full-time. I had been programming since the age of 15, and my predilection for it kept growing with me.
I simply wanted to build something that would make a real difference—and pivoting to a hands-on experience with product & design seemed the best path to achieving that goal.
Please tell us a little about your journey at Augnito
Spriha Biswas: I worked in the realm of Design Thinking for a few years. It is a field that encourages you to deep-dive into understanding user needs in your bid to drive innovation.
The basic construct is that instead of building something first and then trying to figure out the best user fit—you first understand the consumer’s needs, motivations, and challenges. I worked in this field with quite a few different companies and set-ups.
Meanwhile, Rustom Lawyer (Founder & CEO of Augnito) had spearheaded the advent of a new Medical Voice AI technology and was looking to build an innovative product for doctors.
He had taken up courses at various prestigious institutes to understand the space better, and was looking for someone who could drive it with him. That is how our paths crossed.
Initially, we did a lot of on-ground research. We spoke to about 30-50 doctors from a range of healthcare institutions.
We would observe, shadow and get a real sense of how they operated on a daily basis. This gave us the foundations for developing the best possible user experience for our product.
We wanted Augnito to fit seamlessly into a doctor’s ecosystem, by creating a service that they could learn intuitively.
One of my unwavering principles is that I believe in bringing a lot of non-technical elements to AI—whether it’s a superior UX or strong ethics.
Most people in the field are only thinking about the specialized aspects of it, like machine learning, versus the actual user interface.
A high-quality, comprehensive product can only be born when the ‘softer’ elements are given their dues as well.
So, we brought in domain experts, designers, and people who were well-versed in the social aspect of building technology.
It all comes down to the human side of things eventually, no matter how great the technological or engineering aspects of your business are.
Kindly brief us about your company, its specialization, and the services that it offers
Spriha Biswas: Augnito is an intuitive and advanced Voice AI solution that is revolutionizing clinical documentation in the global healthcare market.
It helps streamline clinical workflows, makes healthcare intelligence securely accessible, and ensures that physicians have more time to concentrate on their primary concern: patient care.
The cloud-based AI speech recognition technology enables ergonomic data entry with 99% accuracy, anywhere, from any device.
Augnito is HIPAA, GDPR, ISO 27001, Cyber Essentials Plus and SOC2 certified. The software is currently in use at more than 300 hospitals and healthcare systems, across 25 countries.
Scribetech, Augnito’s sister company (founded in 2001) is a pioneer of clinical documentation software within the UK’s National Health Service and independent healthcare organizations, internationally.
Our services are divided as follows, with versatile subscription plans for each. Augnito products support the entire language of medicine, covering specialties such as Family Medicine, General Medicine, Oncology, Cardiology, General Surgery, Radiology & lots more.
They comprehend all global accents, without any voice training requirements. Apart from the fact that they are self-learning from millions of dictations across the world, they are also regularly updated to recognize newly approved FDA drugs and procedures.
Augnito, an AI based speech to text tool to help doctors maintain accurate medical records in a much faster way. Founded by Rustom Lawyer, Augnito converts human voice to written text in real time.
Built exclusively for doctors and medical professionals, Augnito has been specifically customized for Indian accents.
The founder, Rustom, has over two decades of experience in managing clinical documentation for the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS).
Augnito is currently working with Breach Candy Hospital,Jaslok Hospital, NM Medical in Mumbai, Delta Diagnostics and 5C network in Bangalore and many others.
A fast and easy speech-to-text solution that captures patient notes in seconds, increases productivity and improves patient care.
Spectra comes with in-built text editors but can also be used to directly dictate into all popular editors such as Notepad, Microsoft Word, and CK Editor.
It is available as a Windows desktop application, web application, browser extension (Google Chrome & Microsoft Edge) and mobile application (iOS & Android).
Spectra has straight out-of-the-box compatibility with clinical systems such as eClinicalWorks, Epic, Cerner, and Athena.
It is compatible with a wide range of microphones (including Sennheiser & Philips), and also comes with the free-to-download Augnito Mic app (iOS & Android).
Other standout features of Spectra include productivity-enhancing tools such as Macros & hyper-personalization via Custom Vocabularies.
Advanced APIs & SDKs to voice-power your clinical suite with ease. Voice Services enables you to provide intuitive voice commands for your preferred EHR/EMR/PACS/RIS software.
It also gives you access to the entire language of medicine, covering specialties such as Family Medicine, Oncology, Cardiology, Surgery, Radiology & lots more.
Voice Services is built for clinical data normalization, offering in-built text formatting preferences that are customized for clinical documentation—including the capitalization of words, numeric representations, and specialized formatting for medical terms.
What is your biggest USP?
Spriha Biswas: I consider myself to be a learning machine. You can throw me into the deep end of any situation, ripe with uncertainty, and I am confident in my ability to figure things out.
I will read, research and problem-solve my way out of it. I think it’s an important trait to have in the business world, because of all the prevalent uncertainty.
The job often requires you to find unique solutions—things you may never have done before or don’t have ready answers for.
I have also developed the ability to see the big picture and then zoom in to the minute details for execution.
I think this gives me a distinct advantage, because a lot of people are proficient at one or the other—strategy or execution.
There is a quote from Ritesh Agarwal that has stuck with, and inspired, me to work on developing this ability. He said, “In business, you always need to have a telescope in one hand, and a microscope in the other.”
What made you choose AI?
Spriha Biswas: Quite frankly, AI is like electricity at the moment. Just as the advent of electricity or the internet created revolutions, AI is the next big gamechanger.
It is going to have a huge impact. Whether you’re actively engaged in the building process or not, it will shape your future experiences— across the spectrum, in almost all products and businesses.
I believe it will be commoditized to the extent that almost everyone in the global workforce will eventually either be working with AI models or creating them. Personally, I would rather be on the development side.
How can voice AI create the maximum impact in our country?
Spriha Biswas: In a country like ours, where you have so many languages and people with varying technical skills, it is important to ensure that software is as easy to use as possible.
The beauty of Voice AI is that it is the most intuitive means of communication. Everyone can speak. In fact, I think it can actually help us bridge the language and communication barriers that still exist.
It will give more people access to internet services. We’re already seeing the incredible use of voice search, for example, in remote parts of the country, especially for e-commerce.
For healthcare specifically, besides streamlining clinical documentation—which is a critical backbone for the entire industry—I do think that other innovations in the space will have an incredible impact.
The creation of voice biomarkers for example (a mission that we are also backing heavily), will fast-track a lot of diagnoses and bring medical services to a larger audience.
Besides plugging the gap between the rate at which patients come in versus the rate at which new doctors are being educated, it will be a tool that augments our existing doctors.
They will be able to service more patients, especially for regions where they may not be able to be physically present.
What is your mission and vision at the outset?
Spriha Biswas: Fundamentally, I want to build products out of India that are used worldwide. India is home to some of the best technical minds in the world.
This has been established. As of late, we’ve seen a few products that have been adopted globally, and that is encouraging. The mission is to make in India, for the world.
In the process of doing this, I also hope we can create an organization that is fundamentally a great place to work.
A company that has great design sensibilities, where people come to learn and experience what it takes to build a good product.
Take Google for example—people aspire to work there not only for the status, but also for the quality environment and culture that they have been able to establish.
Overall, as a health-tech business, we’re also looking to bring the best consumer-grade technology to an environment that is distinctly sensitive..
What is your Leadership Mantra?
Spriha Biswas: I genuinely believe in investing in people. At the end of the day, you cannot build the best organization or product on your own.
You may consider yourself a maverick, but business is a team sport. In the long run, an investment in the right people—wanting them to succeed and creating an environment that is conducive to that—is the key to achieving real success.
Another aspect that ties in with this is to keep reminding them of the big picture. Motivation is a huge part of leadership.
Most people no longer work to satisfy a basic survival need. They need a concrete mission or purpose. So, I believe it is my duty as a leader to constantly remind them of the impact that their job has on our larger mission/vision. We must give them a reason to spend the prime of their lives with Augnito.
What was the inspiration behind the research and product strategy for Augnito?
Spriha Biswas: Right at the outset, we knew that the technology we had was extremely powerful. We were also excited by the impact it would have on doctors’ productivity and overall well-being, as they are too often overworked.
Therefore, our aim was to build something that fit seamlessly into their lifestyle—enabling them to do a lot more, without having to go through a learning curve. That’s why we place so much emphasis on our human-centric design principle.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Spriha Biswas: When you set off on an entrepreneurial journey, it is inevitable that you will fail. As long as you are mindful of the fact that this will keep happening along the way and can offset it with the small or big wins—you will be alright.
Personally, I’m someone who takes the lesson learned in my stride and moves on. I don’t believe it does anyone any good to dwell on it for too long.
In one of my early product initiatives, after an initial round of research, we kept trying to find the ‘perfect’ solution before launching it.
There’s always an anxiousness and desire for people to love what you put out. That’s just a human trait.
However, I learned that the cost of not putting it out is even greater. That’s because only once your product is in the market do you get real feedback from real users.
Then you can adapt accordingly. In fact, you may end up burning resources like cash, time and effort, because of this apprehension.
Instead, they could have been better utilized in iterating and improving the product with concrete suggestions and user data.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out in AI, what would it be
Spriha Biswas: There are so many people entering the world of AI who are not technically proficient, and therefore apprehensive about taking the leap.
It is an industry that comes across as very specialized and daunting, highly engineered even. The truth is there’s nothing to worry about.
We aren’t afraid of the internet, right? You may not know the ins and outs of how it works, but you understand the applications that are built on top of it.
So, my advice would be that even if you don’t know exactly what’s under the hood, it’s completely fine.
You just need to be able to understand how to harness its capabilities. How to build with it or use it for your daily benefit.
If you can extract information at a conceptual level, understand that that is good enough to make the most of this new medium.
Your success tips for young and aspiring people
Spriha Biswas: First and foremost—nothing good comes without hard work.
I would also advise you to confront what you are uncomfortable with. Personally, this is something I had to actively work on.
I went from being a straight-A student, with everything defined and structured, to a world that is extremely complex.
Things change at a rapid pace in the business world, so working hard and adapting are the best ways to navigate and thrive.
Nothing is permanent in this world, except math! Things keep changing. There are new discoveries happening every day, so you have as much of a chance to change the world as anyone else.
Don’t be afraid to dream big and go all in just because others around you have not done it before, or you feel like you don’t have anyone to look up to.
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