As soon as co-founder Binny Bansal assumed the chief executive position for Flipkart early last year, he outlined his plans for driving innovation in mobile commerce by integrating disruptive technologies. Following in the footsteps of its foreign competitors, Flipkart will soon introduce AI (Artificial Intelligence) assistance for its customers for helping them during online purchases.
Post the appointment of Bansal in January 2016 (now replaced by Tiger Global’s Kalyan Krishnamurthy), he started working on his ideas. One of the key concerns that crossed his mind was — how accessible and convenient is it for consumers to shop at Flipkart?
Following the thought, he launched ‘Project Mira’ for blending AI within the Flipkart’s interface. The project is currently in stealth mode and was launched last February only. It continuously analyzes customer purchase patterns and conducts various experiments on both the website and app silently.
In talks with ET, Ram Papatla, vice president of product at Flipkart disclosed,
On 28 February (2017), we launched the first version of our conversational search experience. Now, our users with broad intent (searching for, say, shoes or bedsheets) are guided with relevant questions, conversational filters, shopping ideas, offers and trending collections.
The company claims that Project Mira has been equipped with all requisite features and offers services such as fraud and duplicity detection, returns prediction, sorting through ratings, responding to complex queries and personalisation. An apt name for the Indian market, Mira will be able to talk to the customers solving their doubts and shopping obstacles. It even has enough evidence to present that talking to Mira can solve our shopping dilemma.
For instance, a customer searching for a bedsheet will be asked to detail the cloth preference, size, color, and other quintessential factors. The AI assistance is said to be launched with all attributes that can make customers ponder before a purchase. Adding to it, Papatla said,
It is a journey. I do not have a perfect recipe. But the good thing is I have a deep foundation base where I have built this technology based on Indian consumers and data that I can start to play around with for different experiments.
Flipkart has every reason to expect that AI-led innovation through Project Mira will help them create solid competitive differentiation and cement our market leadership. It can drive influential sales for the platform in India where a large part of the population is young and walks head to head with the market trend.
The machine learning capabilities of Project Mira can classify the product vertical given an image. For verticals with similar images (say shampoos and body lotions), it uses the product description to classify products with 95 percent accuracy. The machine learning algorithms can also detect incorrect images and morphed images, equipped with powerful scanning skills. Currently, the company is training about 300 sellers to put correct images with accurate colors, pattern, and sizes.
With the said move, Flipkart can be said to be par with Amazon who has integrated AI-based algorithms long back in its system and is constantly investing in scaling up the business. On the other hand, it is reportedly being said that Flipkart is acquiring eBay India – yet another foreign competitor, and raising a $2 Billion round to take on Amazon India. There are also rumors that SoftBank is pushing the sale of rival Snapdeal to the largest homegrown e-commerce giant.