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After Hindi, Alexa to speak in more Indian languages over the next few yrs

If things go as planned, Alexa will speak in Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, among a host of other Indian languages, over the next few years

Karan Choudhury  |  Bengaluru 

Amazon Alexa
Amazon Alexa

Alexa has learnt to converse in Hindi. The efforts of more than 50,000 engineers, data scientists, language experts — who worked from India and abroad over the past 18 months — to make Alexa talk in Hindi, have finally borne fruit.

If things go as planned, Alexa will speak in Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, among a host of other Indian languages, over the next few years.

The company hopes that purchases on Amazon would soon be made on Alexa. Taking the competition to Google Assistant, Amazon is ramping up the usage of Alexa in India by tying up with speaker manufacturers, mobile phone to make Alexa the primary voice assistant on devices.

From coming up with some of the best Rajnikanth jokes, recipe of gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding), reciting Hanuman Chalisa, to playing tambola, global e-commerce and technology giant Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa is doing it all — in Hindi. For Amazon India, Alexa might be the key to finally unlock the whole country to e-commerce in India.

Getting the lingo right

While Amazon has not given out any numbers, sources said more than 20,000 Indian developers in Amazon as well as those from abroad came together to give Alexa the Hindi edge.

“We conduct a lot of hackathons and seminars to educate developers in India, so that they learn and develop voice-based capabilities for Alexa. There are lot of nuances we have brought in. While we speak in Hindi, it is mostly peppered with words in English. Alexa understands the language perfectly, and replies in a neutral accent in Hindi and English, just the way we are used to,” Dilip RS, country manager, Alexa Skills and Voice Service, Amazon India.

At the moment, Alexa knows 500 skills in Hindi. In English, Alexa can perform over 30,000 tasks. The Hindi numbers, Dilip said, would be ramped up soon.

Buying without any clicks


Amazon might have finally found a way to crack the vernacular puzzle. The plan is simple: the e-commerce giant will help the next wave of customers with 60-90-second videos that will have all information about products. The videos will have chat assistance from Alexa in vernacular languages.

“Almost 20 per cent users, who have come through the Hindi version, had been coming to the English website, trying things out, but was not confident of going ahead with a transaction,” Kishore Thota, Amazon.in’s director of customer engagement, had told Business Standard.

It is planning to make Alexa talk in the mother tongue of a user, and is mulling a hyper local shopping experience for people, who do not make transactions online.

First Published: Fri, September 20 2019. 02:37 IST
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