Homegrown e-commerce giant Flipkart has acquired artificial intelligence (AI) based speech recognition startup Liv.ai, which has built a platform that translates speech to text in 10 Indian languages. As part of this acquisition, the 20-member team of Liv will be part of Flipkart’s ‘voice solutions’ team and help accelerate an end-to-end conversational shopping experience for its users.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed however it was earlier reported thatFlipkart was in advanced talks to acquire Liv.ai for almost $40 million thaT is equivalent to today’s Rs.280 crores.
Started in 2014 by IIT-Kharagpur alumni – Subodh Kumar, Kishore Mundra and Sanjeev Kumar, Liv.ai aims “to give voice to a billion people” using its speech recognition technology. It currently provide speech API/SDKs to enable developers to convert speech-to-text by using powerful neural network models with exceptional accuracy and minimal latency. The API recognizes 10 major Indian languages – English, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malyalam. The Liv.ai system works with most accents and performs remarkably well in noisy environments
The acquisition comes at a time when large online retail firms are doubling down and investing heavily on getting access to the next 100 million Internet users in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and towns across India.
In an interview today, Flipkart chief executive Kalyan Krishnamurthy said Flipkart would continue to invest heavily on new technologies, especially in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and indicated that the online retailer would not shy away from making big, bold acquisitions to boost its own offerings.
“We will not just consider it, we will chase it down,” said Krishnamurthy, when asked about further technology acquisitions that can be integrated within Flipkart.
According to Krishnamurthy, Liv.ai’s technology can be potentially used in multiple areas such as transactions, payments, customer support, to interact with sellers on its marketplace and in its logistics arm, eKart.
Liv.ai claims to be the only company in India to be able to convert speech to text in nine regional languages including Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi and Tamil, apart from English.
With diverse culture and languages, Speech and AI is a huge opportunity in a country like India with such a large population speaking so many different languages. In terms of market size it could easily become a billion dollar market in next five years.
It may also be recalled that in last month, in an event, Binny Bansal also revealed that Flipkart will now no longer invest in startups proactively as it used to do. He said that Flipkart will only invest in startups strategic to its business.