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With Liv.ai acquisition, Flipkart prepares to take on Amazon in voice-based commerce


To give online shoppers a conversational e-commerce experience via voice interface, Indian e-commerce marketplace major Flipkart has acquired AI-based speech recognition startup Liv.ai.

The financial details of the deal remained undisclosed, however, a media report indicates that Flipkart would splurge around $40 million for this acquisition.

With the acquisition, Flipkart will target its arch-rival Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant to become a standalone shopping portal through voice-based search option.

Now Flipkart will absorb the 20-member team of Liv.ai along with its co-founders Subodh Kumar, Kishore Mundra and Sanjeev Kumar. The entire team will become a part of Flipkart’s center of excellence for Voice solutions.

The center will be led by Flipkart vice-president Ravish Sinha and it will help accelerate an end-to-end conversational shopping experience for its users.

The voice integration could be available in some parts of the Flipkart platform as early as 6-8 months.

According to Flipkart CEO, Kalyan 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.

The startup’s application programming interface (API) reduces time and labour costs as the answers get transcribed into text and are ready for analysis by the company.

The system, which works both offline and online, currently supports over 10 languages including English, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

Liv.Ai had raised capital from former Flipkart executive Amod Malviya, Manik Lather of LMR partners and Kotak Securities executive Ravi Nathan Iyer, among others.

For Liv.ai, this is a big opportunity to become a part of the country’s leading e-commerce platform.

Additionally, the development comes at a time when a significant portion of online shopping done via voice assistant apps and devices where Amazon is leading the show. It will be worthwhile to watch, how a three-year-old startup would help Flipkart to counter these big players.

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