Flipkart buys AI startup Liv.ai, to penetrate tier 2 cities

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Online retail giant Flipkart has acquired Bengaluru-based AI-powered speech recognition startup Liv.ai. The details of the deal are yet to be disclosed. With this acquisition, Flipkart is looking to capture the next 200 million online shoppers.

After the acquisition, the 20-member team of Liv.ai will join Flipkart’s “voice solutions” team, in order to boost the end-to-end shopping experience for its users.

Flipkart is expected to enable voice integration in some parts of its platform, over the next 6 to 8 months.

Liv.ai was founded by three IIT-Kharagpur alumni, Subodh Kumar, Kishore Mundra, and Sanjeev Kumar. The startup provides a speech recognition API that converts speech to text, using powerful neural network models. It claims to be able to convert nine Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, among others.

“The next wave of growth of internet users is coming from tier 2+ cities and 70% of these current internet users are vernacular language speakers with this proportion only increasing,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO, Flipkart.

He further added, “Given the complexities in typing on vernacular keyboards, voice will become a preferred interface for new shoppers.”

Along with the speech to text feature, the startup also provides the feature of converting text to speech in real time, using its deep learning technology. It includes other features like controlling a device with speech, among others.

The startup had last raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Astarc Ventures in May 2017.

Enabled with Liv.ai’s voice technology, Flipkart will be competing with Amazon‘s Alexa to establish a stronger foothold in its home country. Powered with the speech recognition of 9 regional languages, Flipkart is already ahead in the game, as the majority of the new online shoppers are expected to use their preferred regional language.

Considering the huge growth that is expected in the vernacular language population, it is no surprise that the leading e-tailer in the country is looking to grab the opportunity.


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