Retailers are rolling out new ways for consumers to look for items online. Forever 21, in particular, is moving beyond text-based online search for its customers with visual search. In an announcement for the feature, Forever 21 President Alex Ok said the technology "bridges the gap" between online and offline worlds, while enabling "customers to search for clothing in the same way they think about it -- using visuals, not words." Forever 21 is not alone in its efforts to integrate the latest in AI: A myriad of merchants are using the technology in new and exciting ways. Some retailers even possess the computing power and storage capacity to treat each customer as an individual rather than part of a segment.
Should India follow China's example and protect its startup scene by placing limitations on foreign companies? Or should it accept that global capital is an integral part of Indian entrepreneurial success and allow for firms funded by it to have unfettered play? So far, India has allowed firms such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google to dominate its e-commerce, social, and search sectors, whereas its neighbouring countries have effectively cut them off at the knees. These questions have gained widespread attention as India wades into an uncertain technology landscape. They will be a hot talking point, especially after the conclusion of the Hindu festival of Diwali that took place in the early part of November.
Over the years that I have spent with startups, I've come across both genuine and fake AI products. I'll start with the ones that truly solved problems using AI. A few years ago, one of the co-founders of Liv.ai, a Bengaluru-based AI startup, met me and demonstrated their product that used natural language processing to convert speech to text in multiple Indian languages. I had always known that text to speech was easy, but converting speech to text in multiple languages was a hard problem to solve. I was a bit sceptical at first, but when I saw the product, I was quite blown away.
Following weeks of intense market speculation and a premature leak from SoftBank CEO, Walmart has finally confirmed it is forking out US$16 billion to acquire a 77 percent stake in Indian e-commerce giant, Flipkart. The remaining shares would be retained by the latter's existing shareholders, including Flipkart's co-founder and CEO Binny Bansal, Tencent Holdings, Tiger Global Management, and Microsoft, said Walmart in a statement late-Wednesday. The shares acquisition was subject to regulatory approval in India. The US online retailer finally introduces Amazon Prime in Singapore but the launch has been described as "piecemeal", which should give Alibaba even more room to expand its own footprint in the region. Walmart CEO and President Doug McMillon said: "India is one of the most attractive retail markets in the world, given its size and growth rate, and our investment is an opportunity to partner with the company that is leading transformation of e-commerce in the market.
There is a sickness in brick and mortar retail, and we need to understand what is causing it. The latest earnings put out report by Walmart is a poignant indicator on why it has been aggressively pursing India's largest (or second largest, depending on whom you believe) e-commerce outfit, Flipkart. Most worryingly for Walmart, its e-commerce sales have begun declining, thanks to a slowdown in online orders, which is tantamount to death for an old-economy company trying to battle a new-economy retail leviathan that is Amazon. Walmart has been desperately trying to transform its loyal offline shoppers into online ones, because they apparently shell out twice as much and, as the Bloomberg article observes, gravitate toward bigger-ticket items. There are, of course, other obvious benefits toward beefing up its online presence: Reduced rents, working capital, and employee costs to name just a few.