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Flipkart acquires Indian language speech recognition startup Liv.ai

Walmart-owned Flipkart has acquired Liv.ai, a speech recognition tech startup that focuses on Indian languages, the Economic Times reports. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. Liv.ai did not respond to a request from MediaNama for further details.

Flipkart is expected to use the technology to reach out to the next 100-200 million customers who are first-time Internet users and speak Indian languages. The technology is expected to be used in areas such as transactions, payments, customer support, interaction with sellers on its marketplace and in its logistics arm, eKart.

Liv.ai works on speech recognition tech in English, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. “Our system works with most accents and performs remarkably well in noisy environments,” the firm says on its website, offering a six second demo.

“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,” Flipkart’s CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy told Mint. Krishnamurthy told the publication that the company would pursue similar acquisitions in the future — especially those in artificial intelligence and machine learning. “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,” he added. Flipkart anticipates growth in voice input and speech recognition, given that Indian languages are difficult to type.

Liv.ai has earlier raised funds from former Flipkart CTO Amod Malviya among others. The acquisition comes just days after Walmart formally closed its $16 billion buyout of Flipkart, giving the American company a 77% stake in the 10-year old Indian e-commerce firm.

The voice-controlled device market in India

Flipkart’s rival Amazon has also made a bet on voice and speech-recognition technology with Amazon Alexa, company’s flagship virtual assistant. In 2017, the company launched Amazon Echo, its voice-controlled line of speakers in India. The speakers are powered by Alexa and are developed to recognize local intonations and pronunciations of Indian speakers of English. However, it does not support any Indian languages. Similarly, in April, Google Home made the latest entry into the AI-powered device market in the country. However, even Google Home does not support Indian languages.

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