Walmart’s Flipkart rolls out voice assistant to make shopping easier

Flipkart is rolling out a voice assistant feature to its platform to make it easier for consumers to shop as the Walmart-owned e-commerce giant looks to expand its reach in the nation.

The AI-powered voice assistant currently supports the grocery category, called Supermart, but a company spokesperson told TechCrunch that Flipkart will soon be extending it to other verticals. The feature began rolling out to Android users on Tuesday, and the company says it is working on bringing it to its iOS app.

The assistant, which supports Hindi and English, will also understand more languages in the future, said the company, which competes with Amazon in India. The feature allows users to explore deals and offers, filter results, add multiple items to carts, receive contextual suggestions and check out using conversational voice commands.

Jeyandran Venugopal, chief product and technology officer at Flipkart, said the company traveled across the country to fine-tune its voice capability. “The launch of voice assistant also aligns well with the growing adoption and comfort of consumers towards voice-based online commerce​,” he said in a statement.

The addition of the voice assistant functionality comes months after Flipkart added an “audio visual guided navigation” feature that was aimed at simplifying the user experience for first-time internet users — and existing customers who are not comfortable with making transactions online. Flipkart also introduced an on-demand video streaming service last year.

Hundreds of millions of Indians have come online in the past decade. Many of them are less-educated and are uncomfortable with typing and navigating services in English. Voice search has become popular among many such demographics in recent years. Google said last year that voice searches were growing 270% year-on-year in India.

“​Voice-led shopping is natural and we wanted to give our users a truly conversational experience, in the most natural way possible,” said Manish Kumar, SVP Grocery and General Merchandise and Furniture at Flipkart.

Amazon India added support for Hindi on its website in 2018, and extended this support to Alexa-enabled smart speakers and other devices last year.

Both the companies have been deeply hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which promoted New Delhi to issue a nationwide lockdown in late March. But India has since eased restrictions, allowing e-commerce firms and ride-hailing giants to resume much of their services.

Last month, Amazon launched its food delivery service in the suburbs of Bangalore. Flipkart, which had applied to enter the food retail market, reported earlier this month that its application was rejected and that it would re-apply soon.