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Flipkart acquires AI-led speech recognition startup Liv.ai for an undisclosed amount

Thimmaya Poojary
21st Aug 2018
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The acquisition of Liv.ai will give Flipkart a platform to effectively compete against Amazon’s Alexa while also reaching out to nearly 200 million regional language online shoppers

Home-grown ecommerce major Flipkart on Tuesday announced the acquisition of Liv.ai, a Bengaluru-based Artificial Intelligence-led speech recognition software startup for an undisclosed amount.

Launched in 2015, Liv.ai has developed a technology that can convert speech to text in nine regional languages including Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

This is the eleventh acquisition made by Flipkart till now and this latest buyout is expected to help the ecommerce major to reach out to the next 200 million users who are comfortable in their regional language.

Post the acquisition, the startup will become a Flipkart Centre of Excellence for voice solutions. Further, the co-founders of Liv.ai - Subodh Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar and Kishore Mundra - along with other employees will be part of the Centre of Excellence, which will be headed by Flipkart Vice President Ravish Sinha.

According to statement by Flipkart, “The acquisition is in line with Flipkart’s vision to solve ecommerce problems through technology innovations - both through in-house efforts as well as inorganic route, and will help build voice and speech capabilities to help get next 200 million online shoppers, who will prefer regional language interaction on the web.”

Flipkart Kalyan Krishnamurthy
Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart

“The next wave of growth of Internet users is coming from Tier II+ cities and 70 percent of these 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,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart.

On the integration of Liv.ai, the Flipkart CEO said, “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.”

As per industry studies, 90 percent of the new users coming online in India are native language speakers and typing and searching in English is complex for them. The Hindi internet user base is likely to outgrow English user base by 2021, and along with Marathi and Bengali users it will drive the volume growth as nine out of every 10 new internet users will be regional Indian language users.

Liv.ai co-founder and CEO Subodh Kumar said, “Building a voice interface is complex, and is especially challenging in the Indian context, given multiple languages and accents…. We are excited about 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 ecommerce experience.”

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