Utkarsh B, Chief Architect, Flipkart

Enterprises in the retail sector have started deploying various new-age technologies and solutions to streamline their operations and enhance business efficiency. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and robotics are being used to provide a personalised experience to customers and offer customised products and services. Industry leaders share their views on how information and communication technology (ICT) is transforming the retail sector, the opportunities and challenges that it presents, and the way forward…

What are the key technology trends dominating the retail sector and how has the adoption of next-generation technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics and AR/VR been going?

As India progresses on its digitalisation journey, e-commerce is at the forefront of driving digital adoption across the country through local innovation and technology development, making comme­rce se­amless. Today, our customer cohort comprises us­ers from beyond metros, and the next 200-500 million customers will come from smaller cities that have completely different requirements. Therefore, a nu­a­n­ced un­derstanding of customer be­haviour is paramount to cater to their ev­ol­ving ne­e­ds. Flipkart has led the e-commerce industry in the development of several new-age technologies, from voice assistants that understand colloquial commands to geo-personalisation that has be­come imperative to solve the problem statements for a heterogeneous set of customers. With the help of AI-driven personalisation, we can tailor-make the experience of each user on the platform using contextually relevant content, thereby reducing the product discovery time and enabling faster process journey.

What are the key technologies being adopted by your organisation? What are the challenges faced while deploying these solutions?

In the years to come, greater AI-led personalisation to offer a tailor-made experience will become even more important to bring customers online and help in simplifying their journey. In line with the latest technology trends, our voice capabilities understand customers’ colloquial comma­nds such as “kaalajootadikhana” (“sh­ow me options for black shoes”), offering the same experience as talking to their neighbourhood shop owners. To enable voice search in Hindi and English, we have deployed a host of technical capabilities such as automatic speech recognition, natural language understanding, and text-to-speech for Indian languages, built by Flipkart’s in-house engineering and data sciences team.

In addition, in order to enable millions of new shoppers to leap from “imagining” to “experiencing” what a product may look like in reality before making a purchase de­­cision, our organisation introduced Flip­kart Camera, an AR capability on the Flipkart App. Flipkart Camera aims to make the online experience more engaging and relatable for customers and help them make informed decisions. In categories such as beauty, furniture, luggage and large appliances, where customers ne­ed to estimate the size and fit of the pro­duct and understand its aesthetics before making a purchase decision, customers can have a visual, 3D experience of products using Flipkart Camera.

What new opportunities have opened up with the digitalisation of the sector? How are you tapping them?

Emerging technologies such as Web3 and metaverse with real-world applications, including non-fungible token-related use cases, virtual the metaverse storefronts and other blockchain related use cases, will be im­portant as we build e-retail of the fu­ture. To explore the potential of these use cases, we launched Flipkart Labs early this year to build and create technology-based solutions that can redefine e-commerce and provide elevated shopping experience to millions of customers.

Going forward, what technological trends are expected to shape the sector?

Technology has been at the forefront of enabling a seamless post-purchase experience. As the Indian e-commerce space gets more inclusive, the supply chain also needs to be scaled up while providing a seamless/frictionless delivery experience to the consumers. Leveraging new-age technologies and finding innovative solutions throu­gh IoT and AR/VR at the supply chain end will enable the industry to continue en­hancing the customer experience. These efforts will democratise e-commerce and increase its penetration. We expect to see further innovation to make e-commerce more accessible and immersive for Indian consumers.