In a move aimed at getting the next 200 million online shoppers to its platform, e-commerce major Flipkart has acquired Liv.ai, an artificial intelligence-led speech recognition start-up. The company, however, did not disclose the deal amount.
Following the acquisition, Liv.ai will become a Flipkart centre of excellence for voice solutions, and help accelerate the end-to-end conversational shopping experience for its users, Flipkart said in a statement.
Founded in 2015, Liv.ai is the first Indian company to build speech to text application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable speech to text conversion in 10 Indian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
US retail giant Walmart recently completed a $16-billion transaction to buy 77 per cent stake in Flipkart.
“The next wave of growth of Internet users is coming from tier II+ cities and 70 per cent of these current Internet users are native/ vernacular language speakers and this proportion is only increasing,” Flipkart CEO, Kalyan Krishnamurthy, said.
Given the complexities in typing on vernacular keyboards, voice will become a preferred interface for new shoppers, he added. He explained that building a voice interface is complex, especially in the Indian context given the multiple languages and accents.
The team at Liv.ai has been able to solve this through multiple technological innovations, including deep neural net-based methods, and this is a big capability add-on for Flipkart, he said.
“Ultimately, we want to give our customers a conversational e-commerce experience and believe that with the voice interface, the opportunities are endless including discovery, search, engagement and transactions,” Krishnamurthy said.
Flipkart said this would help build voice and speech capabilities to help get the next 200 million online shoppers, who would prefer native language interaction on the web.
According to industry studies, the Hindi Internet user base is likely to outgrow the English user base by 2021 and along with Marathi and Bengali users, will drive volume growth.
Liv.ai co-founders Subodh Kumar, Kishore Mundra and Sanjeev Kumar, along with the entire Liv.ai team, will join Flipkart as part of the deal.
The team, under the leadership of Ravish Sinha, Vice-President, Flipkart, will act as a centre of excellence to further development of voice solutions, integration with the Flipkart app and development use cases for various categories.