Voice-based applications are gaining popularity due to increasing penetration of smart speakers and growing voice searches over smartphones. According to a recent survey, half of the internet users globally use digital voice assistants, and India leads the way with 72% adoption rate. For smart speakers alone, Indian users report a 97% satisfaction rate, which is also the highest in the world.
It is for this reason that tech majors like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Samsung (Bixby) are competing hard to capture India’s 300 million smartphone users through their voice assistants either on smartphones or made available through smart speakers.
Enhanced Customer Experience Is The Major Factor For Growth
One of the most important factors for the adoption of voice-based applications is the requirement that companies have for seamless customer experience. To enhance their growth and increase the customer base, organisations have started implementing voice assistant solutions. According to experts, many organisations in India have realised the value of chatbots in customer experience and therefore instead of just using text chatbots, customers are better served using voice bots bandwagon. That way, customers don’t have to go through the hassle of typing their queries.
Apart from this, other e-commerce companies like Goibibo, Ola, Freshmenu, Zomato and Ixigo have built-in voice assistants for helping customers with queries as well as making recommendations. Of course, voice-enabled chatbots are making it easy for users to go through otherwise time-consuming queries. Companies are building their own chatbots dedicated to specific customer-directed aims and customise NLP models dependent on their performance needs. This has fuelled the uptick of voice-enabled chatbots and personal assistants in India.
Indian Enterprises Are Using Smart Voice Applications For Making Processes More Efficient
With the advancement in natural language processing, automatic speech recognition, and artificial intelligence, the business use cases for voice-based chatbots have increased over the years. Experts are betting big on voice becoming the preferred mode of transaction for e-commerce, banking, and payments in the near future, streamlining the business process are the key factors driving the voice assistant application market.With the enterprise, Indian organisations are utilizing of AI-based virtual agents to automate processes such as AI-enabled chatbot DIA by HDFC Ergo General Insurance Company.
The virtual voice assistants leading the market at the moment include Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. Among these Amazon has been making an aggressive push in the Indian market since it announced the expansion of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) in October last year, helping programmers around the glove to create voice applications for Alexa customers in India.
Lack Of Datasets For Regional Languages Is A Challenge
While tech giants see the tremendous value in the voice-enabled smart assistant market, currently the majority of such assistants in India support only English, whereas Hindi and other regional languages remain the dominant form of communication. So if the voice-and-speech recognition market in India has to expand it will have supported by software in multiple regional languages. Global tech majors realise that to draw millions of India’s new internet users their voice assistant, they have to go multilingual. The challenges for such companies is the unavailability of data sets that can be trained for NLP models and the current software is not proficient even for all Hindi speakers, owing to varying accents and contexts within the language across different geographies.
User Privacy Is Yet Another One
41% of voice assistant application consumers are worried about trust and privacy, according to a report from Microsoft focused on consumer adoption of voice and digital assistants. All the big voice assistant services and apps reportedly hire humans who assess the voice data gathered from end-users.
These companies look at data as valuable to train deep learning models and this is a complex problem that needs more attention. User privacy laws such as GDPR restrain tech companies to blatantly collect user data without consent, which is good for individual privacy. But, constant violations of user privacy have damaged the reputation and trust users associate with smart voice assistants. For India, the issue of user privacy does not seem to be a big challenge as found by surveys. Regardless, more user awareness for privacy as well as the upcoming Data Privacy Bill will be a challenge for this technology segment to grow.
Some of the early use cases of voice-enabled solutions are limited primarily to seeking information, playing music, accessing customer service, etc. However, with technological advancements in both hardware and software front, one could expect some innovative use cases. Clearly, for a country like India, the technology can make it easy for consumers to interact with applications and web services. This can boost multiple industries, including media, banking, e-commerce, education, healthcare and more.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine (AIM) and writes on the latest in the world of analytics, AI and other emerging technologies. Previously, he was a senior correspondent for IDG CIO and ComputerWorld. Write to him at email@example.com