India’s ecommerce behemoth Flipkart is taking big steps to make headway in the area of artificial intelligence by creating an internal unit called AIforIndia, in order to put machine learning and AI at the core of its business.
In an interview to Livemint, Flipkart co-founder and chairman Sachin Bansal stated that the ecommerce player will invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” in the AI initiative over the next few years. He also revealed that Flipkart has begun recruiting AI experts, building infrastructure, striking hardware partnerships and working with top educational institutions, including IITs in this direction. The new AI team will be headed by chief data scientist Mayur Datar with Bansal and Flipkart chief executive Kalyan Krishnamurthy directly working on some key projects.
Bansal said, “This is the next big thing for us, where we are betting big on the use of AI and machine learning to solve problems at Flipkart. India’s problems are unique and we need to apply AI in the ecosystem to solve Indian problems. We believe that some of the focus areas for AI in developed countries cannot be applied for India. At Flipkart, we will solve problems differently because the underlying problems (in India) are different.”
Bansal also added that Flipkart is looking for AI-related acquisitions in India and in the US.
A Quick Look At Flipkart And Artificial Intelligence
Flipkart’s artificial intelligence push with AIforIndia is not an entirely new thing. Flipkart first revealed its plans to experiment with AI in late 2015. As shared by the then Chief Product Officer of Flipkart, Punit Soni in an interaction with Inc42, the company will become more mobile-centric through the adoption of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence and social networks. He also added that heavy discount on an online purchase may not earn consumer loyalty and help build a user base in the long run.
In 2015, Flipkart had acquired the F7 Labs in the Silicon Valley to focus on AI and machine learning. As per an ET report, the 10-person Labs team is working on creating a model to determine which products get returned the most, so as to build a more cost effective way to manage those returns, and has automated the moderation of the comments and product reviews that appear on the site.
The company is currently running Project Mira, an artificial intelligence-focused effort, in stealth mode since last year. “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 by relevant questions, conversational filters, shopping ideas, offers and trending collections,” said Ram Papatla, Vice President of Product at Flipkart in an April 2017 ET interview.
On similar lines, Flipkart has partnered with Microsoft to reportedly deploy AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning)-based solutions to run future sales for the ecommerce unicorn.
Similarly Flipkart’s fashion unit Myntra too has been leveraging artificial intelligence and big data analytics to forecast fashion trends. In October 2015, it introduced Artie, an indigenously developed smart bot that gathers consumer insights to create a range of on-trend, fast fashion apparel under the ‘ModaRapido’ brand.
Globally, Amazon has also invested exhaustively in artificial intelligence to improve its marketplace. This year, Amazon also finally launched its most awaited product of the year – a smart, wireless speaker, Echo powered by its AI enabled virtual assistant Alexa in India.
As the world experiments more and more with artificial intelligence, Flipkart too, with its AIforIndia push, will try to solve problems of cart abandonment and frequent returns and apply it to wide range of areas both on the consumer facing side and on its supply side.