Flipkart acquires AI-led startup to get next 200 million online shoppers

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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 startup. The company, however, did not disclose the deal amount.

Post the acquisition, Liv.ai will become a Flipkart centre of excellence for voice solutions, and help accelerate an 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 has recently completed its US $16 billion transaction to buy 77 percent stake in Flipkart.

“The next wave of growth of internet users is coming from tier II+ cities and 70 percent 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 Indian context given 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 expertise 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, transactions etc,” Krishnamurthy said.

Flipkart said this will help build voice and speech capabilities to help get next 200 million online shoppers, who will prefer native language interaction on the web. As per industry studies, Hindi internet user base is likely to outgrow English user base by 2021 and along with Marathi and Bengali users, will drive the volume growth.

Liv.ai co-founders Subodh Kumar, Kishore Mundra and Sanjeev Kumar, along with the entire Liv.ai team will join Flipkart as a part of the deal.

The team under the leadership of Ravish Sinha, Vice President Flipkart, will act as a centre of excellence to drive further developing the voice solutions, integration with Flipkart app and developing use cases for various categories.

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