Flipkart CTO Peeyush Ranjan believes that Amazon Alexa is a mighty fine innovation of technology that allows you to converse with it in natural human language, but he doesn’t see scope for the same in India.
Ranjan in conversation with Blaise Zerega, Editor-in-chief, Venturebeat adds that,
The problems that we see over here in the U.S are not what we see in India. The real challenge we’re going to have to solve is bigger than Alexa.
He mentions that conversational commerce is an important part of online shopping industry in India, where people like to discuss and sought out differences before settling on buying the product they need. This conversation usually takes place at the decision-making stage, using text and written language.
To tackle the same, Flipkart had launched an in-app chat messenger called ‘Ping’ which allowed you to send product photos and descriptions to friends. But the service has since then been shut down in the wake of an upcoming machine-learning and AI powered service that Flipkart is working on.
With a population north of 1.25 billion, pupil in India speak about 33 major regional languages. But, the work environment and commands handled by something like the Alexa-powered ‘Amazon Echo‘ is generally restricted to English(spoken by merely a tenth of the populous). Thus, the device faces obstacles, like inclusion of regional languages and dialects, high-speed internet connectivity, power outages, amongst others in its entry to India. There is also a lack of a well-functioning logistic and delivery infrastructure in India, adds Ranjan.
While Ranjan staying mum on the recent developments of the product and technologies at Flipkart, still hinted that the company is currently trying to define a definite process for making regional languages accessible to all — on their mobile devices on the daily. He adds that,
If you think of e-commerce, there’s a fundamental belief at Flipkart that the way natural commerce happens is the way e-commerce will go.
Thus, the Indian e-commerce giant is now working on building a robust and easy-to-use ‘Talk and Touch’ interface with inherent regional language support. And as far as AI integration goes, Flipkart is also looking at the inclusion of sentiment analysis and expression analysis in their future services. Ranjan believes that the online shopping experience should be synonymous to walking into the store and having a natural conversation, with facial expressions and voice modulation.
So, we shouldn’t have high hopes of seeing a physical hardware product similar to ‘Echo’, but wait for the arrival of a visual and speech-driven mobile service integrated into the core of the e-commerce experience. And this might also help Flipkart bounce back and save its tarnished image and sales figures, due to the constant valuation markdowns and top-level management changes.