Walmart’s Indian E-Commerce Subsidiary Flipkart Debuts Voice Assistant for Grocery Shopping in Hindi and English
Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce company acquired by Walmart, has launched a voice assistant on its platform. The voice assistant allows customers to browse and shop Flipkart’s Supermart grocery store online in English and Hindi, with plans in the works for additional stores and languages.
Flipkart claims its voice assistant can handle pretty much any search or purchase request. The voice assistant was designed and built by Flipkart’s research team and is supposed to understand conversational speech. The AI automatically identifies whether the speaker is using Hindi or English, and can even grasp a mixed language order, responding according to the language the user speaks. The voice assistant is currently accessible on Flipkart’s Android mobile app, although iOS and web versions are in development.
“ As a homegrown e-commerce company, Flipkart has been at the forefront of building India-first innovations and Video, Vernacular and Voice have been the key pillars of solving for the adoption of e-commerce in India,” said Flipkart chief product and technology officer Jeyandran Venugopal in a statement. “ While we have seen great adoption for our video and vernacular offerings, the next step in that direction is to solve for the voice capability for e-commerce.”
The voice assistant takes Flipkart’s competition with Amazon in e-commerce to the next level. Flipkart started experimenting with the idea a few months ago when it added an audio visual guided navigation to its app as a way for people who don’t shop online a lot to explore the app. India is a critical part of Amazon’s global strategy. That’s why Amazon added voice shopping by integrating Alexa into its Android mobile app in India, the first country outside the U.S. to offer the feature.
Alexa only added Hindi to its languages last fall, along with Hindi/English hybrid language Hinglish in September. In December, Amazon debuted its new, portable smart speaker, the Echo Input, exclusively in India Amazon is beating out other voice assistants in India, with three-fifths of the smart speaker market. Google makes all but 2% of the rest of the smart speakers in the country, according to an IDC report. On the other hand, Google Assistant has nearly ten times the voice apps in Hindi as Alexa.
On the e-commerce side of things, Amazon’s competition with Flipkart has only grown fiercer over the last few years. Flipkart was its biggest rival in India, just as Walmart was in the U.S. After Walmart acquired Flipkart, the rivalry solidified even further. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is hurting both companies, even with the subsequent surge in online purchases during the lockdown in India. Voice is now fully a part of the fight over e-commerce market share in India.