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US: Flipkart buys voice AI startup Liv.ai

 |  August 22, 2018

Flipkart, the Indian eCommerce player being acquired by Walmart, has acquired Liv.ai, the Bengaluru startup working on speech recognition platforms using artificial intelligence.

According to a report in BGR citing Flipkart, once the deal is complete, Liv.ai will become part of Flipkart’s center of excellence for voice-based solutions, with the goal of creating a more personalized and conversational shopping experience for consumers. The report noted that Flipkart is aiming to use Liv.ai’s speech-to-text technology to give consumers in India a shopping environment that is in their own language.

“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,” Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said in an interview. “Given the complexities in typing on vernacular keyboards, voice will become a preferred interface for new shoppers.”

The executive noted that building a voice interface is challenging in India, given the multiple languages and accents in the country. “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,” said Krishnamurthy.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Flipkart is gearing up to roll out a second loyalty program later in August. Reuters, citing the company, reported that the second loyalty program — which will be called Flipkart Plus — would launch on August 15, India’s Independence Day, with the goal of increasing customer retention and taking on Amazon and its Prime subscription service. Under the program, customers get free fast delivery and early access to sales events, as well as an increased level of customer support.

In May, Walmart announced a deal to acquire a 77% stake in Flipkart for US$16 billion. The remainder of the business will be held by existing shareholders, including Flipkart Co-founder Binny Bansal, Tencent Holdings, Tiger Global Management, and Microsoft.

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