In China, it is said if you can catch the right opportunity at the right time, anything can happen, including pigs flying at the center of a whirlwind. Now a new kind of whirlwind is gathering forces, seizing the excitement from many local VCs. It is called “RPA”, Robotic Process Automation. So what the heck does it mean?
- Robotic means virtual/software robot that can mimic human action
- Process: a sequence of steps that lead to meaningful task/activity, such as:
open Excel file—-extract weekly sales data—-copy and paste the data into the email—send the email to your boss
- Automation: doing the task/activity without human intervention
In short, virtual/software robot mimicking human behaviors to do a particular task that is processed without human intervention.
In plain words, software robots are going to do those boring, tedious, repetitive, non-creative thinking involved, almost bull-shit kind of corporate tasks for humans in a non-stopping, more accurate and cost-efficient way.
Still feel confused? Just check out a simple video below showcasing application in the invoicing process.
It is said RPA is nothing new. It was scientifically developed in the early 2000s but gradually came to the spotlight of the public eyes in 2015. The difference between AI and RPA is the former is more about the simulation of human thinking while the latter is specialized in imitation of human action. Of course, McKinsey is starting to talk about the combination of the AI and RPA in the near future, renamed into Intelligent Process Automation (IPA).
Though the RPA market is still relatively small at this stage, experts believe it is going to be the next big thing. In fact, it has created Unicorn like Uipath, emerging from a humble Romanian background startup, now with a valuation of USD 7 billion.
The epic rise of Uipath inspired many Chinese VCs that we have to nurture our own version of Uipath. Insiders told now at least 100 local startups have entered the arena, however probably around 20 can be evaluated as top tier players which should be no technologically inferior to their western peers but at a fraction of their pricing charge, on top with more sophisticated capability in implementing Chinese language task automation.
Sequoia China, GSR Ventures etc, these elite VC firms are already betting on its own horse and help their RPA baby to sign big clients names like Deloitte.
Still, deep RPA adoption in diverse industries, such as retail, finance, telecommunication, manufacture etc, must be further pushed before the windfall can finally arrive.
By: Cecilia Wu