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E-commerce giant Amazon on Wednesday launched its lineup of Echo speakers and Alexa smart assistant in India, making it the first Asian country to get extremely hyped Artificial Intelligence powered devices.
Amazon has begun taking pre-orders for the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus smart speakers by invitation and said they will begin shipping by the end of October. The launch of Echo and Alexa comes ahead of Amazon's Prime Music subscription service in India.
"Tens of millions of customers are already using Alexa, and today we're excited to bring her to India with an all-new experience designed from the ground up for our customers in India," said Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Amazon Devices and Services. "The combination of Alexa and Echo provides customers with hands-free access to music, weather, news, information, and more."
While Amazon is the first to enter the game of smart speakers in India, it's late in bringing its smart assistant Alexa, which powers the devices, here. Rival services such as Google Now and Siri have been around for a while in the country through Android smartphones and the iPhone.
The Echo devices, while pricey, starting at Rs 4,499 and going all the way up to Rs 14,999, will offer users the ability to look for music, news and even buy products on Amazon through voice. Unlike Google and Apple, Amazon has been forced to bring the devices here in order to serve as an interface for users with Alexa.
Echo and Alexa will be able to somethings right out of the box, but Amazon is also bringing developer tools that will help other companies plug their services into the speakers. Services such as Saavn, Times of India, ESPNcricinfo, Ola and Freshmenu, will be among the first to offer their services through the smart speakers, allowing users to order food, get cricket scores and book a cab.
India being one of the major focus markets for Amazon, the company will try to target the Echo devices to its die hard customers in the country. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has already pledged to invest $5 billion into the country and is betting on its Prime service to win over rivals, Softbank-backed Flipkart and Alibaba-backed Paytm.
Apart from selling products to Indian customers, Amazon is also betting big on selling content in the form of video and music. While Prime Video was launched last year along with its Prime subscription, Prime Music will be available off the bat to early buyers of the Echo devices at no additional cost and then rolled out to other soon.
For India, Amazon says it has added regional music to its catalogue, and the service will take on Apple Music and Google Play Music, services which are offered at Rs 120 and Rs 89 per month respectively.
Echo will allow Amazon to connect with its customers in India during the course of their day to better understand their needs and buying behaviour. So far the company's interaction with customers was only through its app and website. With Amazon's biggest focus being on getting people to buy more often from it, Echo is where it is putting its money, for now.