Hindi Voice Model Now on the Alexa Skills Kit, No Voice Service Yet
Yesterday, Alexa’s blog revealed there is a new Hindi voice model for Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). Developers are getting early access to the Hindi feature now, but equipment makers that use Alexa Voice Service (AVS) will have to wait a bit longer. This isn’t the first time Amazon introduced a new language through ASK first. In April Amazon rolled out a similar plan for U.S Spanish, introducing the ASK with plans to launch the AVS version “later in the year.”
At Amazon’s re:MARS event last month, the company announced the upcoming expansion of Alexa support for Hindi and other Indian languages. India is one of the most linguistically diverse countries and Alexa is also learning the cultural context. Rohit Prasad, Amazon Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa, explained, “We believe in introducing a wholesome experience to delight our customers and not something that is half-baked. We are working to solve these issues in the Indian context.”
To access the Hindi version of ASK, developers first need to visit the Alexa Developer Console and select Hindi as their language. Developers have the option to add Hindi as a language in their existing skill(s), and for those who don’t yet have a skill they can get started with a 90-minute course.
Amazon’s E-commerce Interest Still at Large
According to research from the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India is the fastest growing market for e-commerce. This is Amazon’s core business, the channel that started it all, and Alexa is in part designed to drive more use of and loyalty to Amazon.com services. This makes Amazon expansion to Hindi critical especially after Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart and its closer relationship to Google Assistant in an anti-Amazon alliance.
Amazon is the current leader in India’s e-commerce market, but Edge by Ascential data shows Flipkart taking the lead by 2023. Market share for e-tailers will be an ongoing battle, and the Indian government isn’t making the fight any easier. In February Indian regulations went into effect that prohibit Amazon and Flipkart from selling products in which they have equity. This change means Amazon’s own Echo smart speaker will not be for sale by Amazon, rather a third party is selling it through Amazon.in. Time will tell whether Amazon or Flipkart will ultimately reach the most Indian consumers, a predicted 457 million of them are forecasted to shop online by 2023. However, Hindi support for Alexa is clearly a tool that can help Amazon in its India e-commerce expansion efforts.