The acquisition comes at a time when Flipkart’s is looking to help provide an end-to-end conversational shopping experience to its users.

Flipkart acquires AI-led speech recognition startup Livai to take on Alexa
Atom M&A Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 14:36

With Flipkart having already expressed its keenness to develop AI based solutions to its customers in the ecommerce space, it comes as no surprise that the company has acquired an AI-based voice assistant startup Liv.ai.  Post the acquisition, Liv will become a Flipkart center of excellence for Voice solutions, and help accelerate an end-to- end conversational shopping experience for its users.

Interestingly, Flipkart’s rival Amazon has its own voice assistant Alexa and it sells home speakers built on this technology. Google also has its digital assistant. Flipkart’s intentions will be to integrate the voice assistant to its ecommerce platform so that customers find it easier to complete their purchases on its platform.

“The next wave of growth of Internet users is coming from Tier 2+ cities and 70% of these current internet users are native / vernacular language speakers and this proportion is only increasing. Given the complexities in typing on vernacular keyboards, voice will become a preferred interface for new shoppers. One does understand that building a voice interface is complex, and is especially challenging in Indian context given multiple languages and accents. The team at Liv has been able to solve this through multiple technological innovations including deep neural net based methods. This expertise is a big capability add-on for us and we are delighted to welcome them to Flipkart. Ultimately, we want to give our customers a conversational ecommerce experience and believe that with the voice interface the opportunities are endless including discovery, search, engagement, transactions etc. With Liv, we’re one step closer making e-commerce accessible to emerging users.” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO, Flipkart.

Founded in 2015, Liv.AI is the first Indian company to build speech to text APIs that enable low latency speech to text conversion in 10 Indian languages that include Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

The significant part of the AI technology that Liv.ai has been able to work on is the capability to recognize voices speaking in different Indian languages and to handle speech-to-text translation in English.

In a typical ecommerce environment this technology will be very useful in converting many buyers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and towns in the country who cannot read or write but can speak fluently. They can be exposed to an interactive environment where the images of products displayed on Flipkart’s site can be accompanied by a digital voice assistant that could guide the buyer to complete the transactions smoothly. This might even prove to be a gamechanger for Flipkart and score a few points more against a formidable rival like Amazon.

“Building a voice interface is complex, and is especially challenging in Indian context given multiple languages and accents. At Liv we are proud of the team that surmounted many challenging problems to deliver a remarkable Speech recognition solution for India. While Flipkart has been solving for quintessential Indian problems, it is an exciting time for us to join in and solve it together. We are excited with the opportunity that is being presented to scale this up further and make it available to millions of consumers and help them have a deep level e-commerce experience,” Subodh Kumar, CEO and Co-founder of Liv said in a statement.

Also read: Amazon in talks with Aditya Birla group to acquire More supermarkets

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