Paytm, the Indian mobile commerce company backed by Alibaba, announced today that it has acquired Shifu, a personal assistant app for smartphones. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but Paytm senior vice president Kiran Vasireddy confirmed that it is close to the $8 million reported by new outlets like the Times of India.
Shifu will shut down so its 20-member team—including founders Prashant Singh, Deepansh Jain, and Michael Massey—can join different departments at Paytm and work on integrating the app’s technology into products like Paytm’s mobile wallet and online marketplace. Launched in 2013, Shifu billed itself as “your smartphone sidekick” and analyzed how people used their devices so it could make personalized to-do list suggestions and reminders.
For example, if you told Shifu you had a certain amount of free time, it suggested a task from your task list you could complete. Other nifty features include sensing when you are commuting, so it could recommend a voice call or other task you could complete while driving, or sending alerts of discussion topics when you contacted someone, like a doctor, from your address book.
Vasireddy said it’s still too early to announce exactly what new features users will see in Paytm’s products, but Shifu’s technology will help the company analyze customer behavior and improve product and service recommendations. Paytm is best known for its mobile wallet, but also runs online marketplaces for products and local services.
Paytm has recently made several acquisitions and investments. In the second half of 2015, it purchased local services platform Near.in and put money into transportation app Jugnoo and Little, a platform that helps users find deals at nearby businesses.
Shifu is a departure from Paytm’s spending spree in e-commerce startups, but Vasireddy says artificial intelligence is an important focus for Paytm and other online commerce and financial technology startups. For example, Alibaba, one of Paytm’s key investors, uses artificial intelligence to improve its products, reduce fraud, and quickly approve users for new accounts and services.