Indian e-commerce company Flipkart is adding three new languages widely spoken in the country to its mobile app. The Walmart subsidiary debuted a voice assistant for its platform just a few weeks ago, and the extended language list is likely yet another front in its battle with Amazon over market share.
Flipkart app users can now explore the platform in Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada as well as English and Hindi. Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada speakers account for more than 200 million people and 145 million internet users, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The company conducted surveys in cities where the languages are spoken to design and build new interfaces. The result combines translation and transliteration, with more than 5.4 million words translated on its product and payment pages.
“We truly believe that language, if solved well, can be an opportunity rather than a barrier to reach millions of consumers who have been underserved,” Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said in a statement. “As a homegrown e-commerce marketplace, we understand India and its diversity in a more nuanced way and are building products that have the potential to bring a long-term change.”
The new languages only apply to the mobile app, not the voice assistant created for Flipkart’s Supermart grocery store chain that launched earlier in June. With the translations for the app done, however, it’s probably only a matter of time before the voice assistant also speaks Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada. The only complication may be working out how to incorporate the new languages with the voice assistant’s current automatic language recognition and ability to understand mixed language commands.
Like the voice assistant, the new languages are part of Flipkart’s competition with Amazon. The Amazon app offers English and Hindi as options in India. The same goes for the Alexa voice assistant, which only added Hindi to its languages last fall, along with Hindi/English hybrid language Hinglish. That may not be enough for Amazon to edge out local rivals like Flipkart. And the American company has made it very clear that it wants to be a major presence in India. That’s why India is the first stop for the international expansion of many Amazon features, like embedding Alexa into the Amazon Android App. And India was the sole country where Amazon launched its portable smart speaker, the Echo Input, in December. Amazon’s competition with Flipkart is far from settled, and new languages are likely one of many aspects of both e-commerce companies that will see upgrades and expansions in the next few years.