Flipkart enters into academic collaboration with IIT Patna

Flipkart and IIT Patna will jointly work on technology areas such as AI, NLP and ML to come out with machine translation solutions for Indian languages.

Mayur Datar, Chief Data Scientist, Flipkart

Flipkart, India’s leading ecommerce marketplace, has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IIT Patna to conduct deep research in the area of translating content in Indian languages through technology to make non-English speaking users more comfortable to shop online.

The MoU of Flipkart with IIT Patna will focus on applied research in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML). All these will be focused largely on machine translation of languages.

Talking to YourStory, Mayur Datar, Chief Data Scientist, Flipkart said, “We need to push the envelope further to conduct deep research in these areas and need to have the right partners who are experts in this field.”

Flipkart has already started making its marketplace platform available in non-English Indian languages starting with Hindi, and it has been extended the option to another three more languages.

The ecommerce giant believes that the next set of 200 million users will be coming in from Tier-II and III towns and cities and they may not be comfortable in transacting online in English. The preference would be their mother tongue.

According to Mayur, considerable research has been done on machine translation but it still falls short to meet the requirements of the Indian conditions. This extends to understanding the nuances of the languages also a mix where sometimes English words are used together.

IIT Patna has built deep expertise in the area of machine translation. Asif Ekbal, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, said, “This collaboration brings many benefits for IIT Patna. We will be solving the real problems for the industry which is India specific.”

The collaboration between Flipkart and IIT Patna will aim at technology solutions which can be implemented at the marketplace, something like applied research. Besides, there will also be publication of high quality research papers on this subject.

In this alliance, Flipkart will bring computing power, data and the business challenges to solve while IIT Patna will have its deep expertise in this area of technology.

According to Asif, the partnership with Flipkart will start with research in the area machine translation of English reviews of products on the marketplace.  

“We expect to come up with at least two high-quality publications in the relevant foras and create a baseline translation workflow in the product review domains,” he said.

Flipkart has been engaged with academic institutions like Indian Institute of Science (IISC), IIT (Kharagpur, Bombay and Kanpur), IIM (Ahmedabad and Kolkata) and a few foreign universities like Carnegie Mellon University and University of California, San Diego. These partnerships address the various business challenges of an ecommerce marketplace and come out with solutions.

Mayur said, “These partnerships broaden our reach and increase the depth of research. In this area of machine translation for languages, Indian institutions are lot more qualified.”

Flipkart believes that  these kinds of partnerships will be a continuous road to improvements where they have a better understanding of their customers.

Edited by Kanishk Singh