Flipkart acquires speech recognition startup Liv.ai

Flipkart acquires speech recognition startup Liv.ai

FILE PHOTO: A Common myna sits next to the logo of India's e-commerce firm Flipkart installed on the company's office in Bengaluru, India April 12, 2018. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa/File Photo

India’s largest e-commerce marketplace Flipkart has acquired Liv.ai, an AI led speech recognition startup that has developed speech to text platform supporting 10 Indian languages.

Liv has leveraged proprietary technology architecture and deep learning algorithms. Post the acquisition, Liv will become a Flipkart center of excellence for Voice solutions, and help accelerate an end-to-end conversational shopping experience for its users, the company said in a statement. 

The acquisition is in line with Flipkart’s vision to solve ecommerce 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 native language interaction on the web.

Founded in 2015, Liv.ai is the first Indian company to build speech to text APIs that enable low latency speech to text conversion in 10 Indian languages that include Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

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

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 the company, he sad.

"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. With Liv, we’re one step closer making e-commerce accessible to emerging users,” Krishnamurthy added.

As per industry studies, 90% of the new users coming online in India are native language speakers and typing and searching in English is complex for them. Hindi internet user base is likely to outgrow English user base by 2021 and along with Marathi and Bengali users will drive the volume growth as 9 out of every 10 new internet users will be Indian language users. This presents a huge opportunity, and a gap at the same time, to make e-commerce accessible, inclusive and intuitive for next 100 million consumers.

Subodh Kumar, CEO and Co-founder of Liv said, “Building a voice interface is complex, and is especially challenging in Indian context given multiple languages and accents. At Liv we are proud of the team that surmounted many challenging problems to deliver a remarkable Speech recognition solution for India."

Liv.ai’s co-founders Subodh, Sanjeev and Kishore, along with the entire Liv team will be joining Flipkart as a part of the deal. The team under the leadership of Ravish Sinha, Vice President Flipkart will act as a centre of excellence to drive further developing the voice solutions, integration with Flipkart app and developing use cases for various categories.