Bengaluru: India’s largest online marketplace Flipkart on Tuesday said it has bought Liv.ai, an artificial intelligence (AI) start-up which has built a platform that converts speech to text in 10 Indian languages. The company did not disclose the size of the deal.
Liv.ai was founded in 2015 by former IIT graduates Subodh Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar and Kishore Mundra. It has previously raised funding from investors, including Astrac Ventures.
Liv.ai converts speech to text in Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, among others.
In an interview early on Tuesday, Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said his company 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. The deal was first reported by the Economic Times. The acquisition comes at a time when large online retailers are investing heavily to reach the next 100 million Internet users in India’s Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities and towns.
Once the acquisition is completed, Liv.ai will be integrated into Flipkart’s business unit, which works on voice technology, as the online retailer looks to leverage the start-up’s technology and build its capabilities around so-called conversational shopping.
“E-commerce in India has been a hard journey. It was not an organic and natural evolution. The evolution has been harder than countries like China….This acquisition will solve problems for the next 100-200 million users, the users who prefer voice and local native language. Those two come together and that’s what this acquisition is all about," Krishnamurthy said.
Krishnamurthy said Liv.ai’s technology can be potentially used in multiple areas such as transactions, payments, customer support, interaction with sellers on its marketplace and in its logistics arm, eKart.
“This is a first-of-its-kind sort of technology coming out of India. So, for us it makes sense to acquire a technology like that," Krishnamurthy said.
The buyout could help Flipkart cross the language barrier faced by most leading consumer internet companies.
Flipkart’s rival Amazon has also globally bet on voice and speech-recognition technology and come out with new offerings in the form of Alexa, the company’s own flagship artificially-intelligent virtual voice assistant.