Will Indian brands get a voice?

Experts herald that voice AI could be the next frontier in brand marketing

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Sep 21, 2017 2:17 PM

As voice-assisted devices powered by artificial intelligence are gaining a strong foothold, it’s no secret that voice search could change how consumers are seeking information and making purchases. The shift opens up a new landscape for search marketing. But the question ought to be asked is ‘will brands snag the top search slots and will brand marketers come to grips with a consumer landscape that allows voice AI to be the next frontier in brand marketing?’


With voice being the main signal for the elaborate data grid, the consumer won’t need to lift a finger literally if brands tap into Voice AI. Industry experts believe that Voice AI could well be the future. “Voice AI is emerging as an exciting new trend or we can say a reality and is definitely a space where brand and marketers are looking to tap and express themselves. We are now seeing the physical world moving or being transformed into a world of speakers and voice assistants like Siri, Amazon Echo Powered by Alexa, and Google Home,” says Gopa Kumar, Executive Vice President, Isobar India.


Kumar believes that through voice-enabled devices, consumers would be able to speak, interact and converse with brands anywhere and anytime, which will be a huge paradigm shift for brands. “Globally, we are seeing brands tapping into voice and using them to drive local searches, cab bookings, pizza delivery etc.,” she adds. Harikrishnan Pillai, Co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea opines that voice AI being used in brand marketing has its current epicentre fixed around voice-enabled search. “Like for any technological adaptation, some entity of sizeable mass needs to adapt and endorse it. Which we all hope is due to happen in India soon. The cue is the fact that globally voice enabled search is growing at 20%,” explains Pillai.


Industry experts believe that for the touch points to mutate into listening points, the dialect complexities will need to be countered. “It will be interesting to see how India reacts, especially with the complexities around texting and regional languages and the ease of talking in lieu of typing. While platforms like Google have come a long way to make its AI understand Indian dialect and accent, regional language recognition is still work-in-progress,” says Pillai. Harsh Shah, Co-Founder, Fynd also reiterated a similar sentiment. “It is just so difficult to encapsulate so many different dialects on a keyboard. The barrier is in building the training data set that will understand what you are talking about. So passing the context from the statement and hence being able to serve solution to that context is going to be the tough point,” he points out.


However, industry experts herald that although they don’t see many brands going full throttle with Voice AI, it could materialise in a few years. ”When you see Google Home and Amazon Echo being introduced in India and becoming more and more mainstream, it could lead to  brand and agencies understanding the platform and devising a communication or narrative around the same or also identifying consumer problems and figuring out a viable solution through voice-based AI. We are already seeing lots of brands taking steps in the right direction and I guess by early next year you will start seeing some brands tap this properly,” admits Kumar.


Shah believes that as the pockets in the country open up, we’ll see brands reaching out to those places with the vernacular certainly one way of reaching out to the consumer. “When you will be able to call an Uber speaking in Tamil or Telugu, that’s when Voice AI will actually pick up,” says Srikar Nagubandi, Senior Vice President – Operations, iProspect India.

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