Alexa has learned Hinglish. Amazon Echo devices are shipping in India this week and Alexa is going beyond simply understanding the Queen’s English. Several interviews conducted by Bloomberg’s Saritha Rai reveal that Alexa has learned the Hindi-English hybrid, Hinglish. This is about more than simply understanding accents. For a voice assistant to be truly at home in any country, it must also understand the local culture, how language is used and the common use of words from other languages. Rai reports:
This Alexa uses a blend of Hindi and English and speaks with an unmistakably Indian accent. She knows Independence Day is August 15th, not July 4th, and wishes listeners ‘Happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year!’ She also refers to the living room as ‘drawing room’ and can add jeera (cumin), haldi (turmeric) and atta (flour) to your shopping list. Then there are her cricket jokes.
Parag Gupta, head of product management for Amazon devices in India commented for the article:
We wanted our devices to talk, walk and feel Indian. Alexa is not a visiting American, she has a very Indian personality.
India is a Strategic Battleground for Amazon
Voicebot reported in September that India is a strategic battleground for Amazon. Analysis from 7Park Data show that Amazon is in a virtual tie with Flipkit for eCommerce mobile app engagement. This is particularly important because more than 80% of Flipkart’s traffic is on mobile.
When it comes to mobile and desktop web page views combined, Amazon is well ahead of its Indian eCommerce rivals. Analysis of Similarweb data by Metisa shows Amazon outpacing Flipkart page views by more than 50% in May 2017 and several times larger than its other local rivals.
Millions of Mobile and Web Page Views in India (May 2017)
Even with all of this Amazon strength, Flipkart owns both Jabong and Myntra. Praxis Global Alliance estimates that Flipkart commands 38.5% of India’s eCommerce market share to just 29% for Amazon. In addition, rumors have circulated that Flipkart may attempt to acquire Snapdeal to further strengthen its market share position. These moves by Flipkart are in response to Amazon’s recent surge in sales. Amazon grew from just 12% market share to within striking distance of Flipkart in just two years.
The introduction of Amazon Echo into India could help solidify Amazon’s competitive position and drive new growth closing that gap further. In the U.S., CIRP found that Prime members increased their Amazon spending by 10% after purchasing an Echo. All of that language and cultural localization for Alexa to support Hinglish can help drive Echo adoption and increase voice commerce for Amazon in India.
Should We Expect a Google Assistant Flipkart Partnership?
Amazon’s largest eCommerce rival in the U.S. is Walmart. Google and Walmart announced a new partnership in August to facilitate consumer shopping through Google Home and Assistant. Walmart clearly recognizes that it must compete with Amazon in every online channel and voice shopping is already growing quickly. Flipkart doesn’t have a voice commerce partner today, but give its scale, Google could be a good option. This would also fill a voice commerce gap for Google Assistant as it readies an India launch.