Friday, June 21

Flipkart Acquires AI-led Speech Recognition Startup Liv.ai

India’s most popular e-commerce platform Flipkart has announced that it has acquired an AI-led speech recognition startup Liv.ai. The primary purpose of this acquisition is to boost up an end-to-end conversational shopping experience for its customers.

Along with this, voice integration could be available in some parts of the Flipkart platform as soon as 6-8 months. Liv.ai was started in 2015 by Subodh Kumar, Kishore Mundra and Sanjeev Kumar. The company had developed a speech to text platform supporting 10 Indian languages the constitute Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

“We work on speech recognition and surrounding technologies and these will be extremely valuable to any company that wants to target the Indian customer base of 100-200 million,” said Subodh Kumar, chief executive of Liv. ai. 

Earlier, Flipkart was eyeing to take over Liv.ai with an aim to add ‘voice’ to its platform which is similar to Amazon’s and Google’s virtual assistants. The amount of this acquisition deal is expected to be around $40 million.

The amount of the deal has however, not been disclosed but it has been mentioned that Liv.ai will become a Flipkart center of excellence for Voice solutions to drive further developing the voice solutions. The company will get in integration with Flipkart app and develop use cases for various categories. Ravish Sinha, the vice president of Flipkart will be leading the center.

“Voice is a much better and effortless interface and it will increase the buying propensity and their intention to buy and ease of use will increase on an e-commerce platform” Kumar added. As part of this acquisition, the 20-member team of Liv including its founders will be part of Flipkart’s ‘voice solutions’ team.

This group comprises mostly first-time internet users from lower income groups who are more comfortable with vernacular languages than English. Experts tracking the space believe that ‘voice’ is the next revolution after the ‘touch’ revolution brought in by smartphones.

“With Liv, we’re one step closer making e-commerce accessible to emerging users. Given the complexities in typing on vernacular keyboards, voice will become a preferred interface for new shoppers. 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 among others” said Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy.

This acquisition has arrived as e-commerce companies in India have shifted their focus to tier II and beyond areas and target the next 200-300 million, online shoppers.