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This article is published by Business Standard on 16/06/2021

Google backs Indian Voice Assistant as a Service startup Slang Labs

Slang Labs raised funding from the Google Assistant Investments program. It would use the funding to grow its Voice Assistant as a Service business.

Slang Labs, the in-app voice assistant company that pioneered the concept of Voice Assistant as a Service (VAaaS), has raised an investment from the Google Assistant Investments programme, along with 100x Entrepreneurs, Velu Murugan, Thomas George and their existing investor Endiya Partners. With this development, Slang Labs becomes one of the first players in the In-App Voice Assistant space globally to be backed by Google.

As technology grows more pervasive in people's daily lives due to the ongoing Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, in-app voice assistant is a promising touchpoint for e-commerce and other interactions online. Through this technology, consumers will be able to do online transactions in their apps through the power of their voice, and in their preferred language.

“This investment by Google emphasises the importance of voice inside apps and highlights the most significant technology trend for this decade - Voice,” said Kumar Rangarajan, Slang Labs co-founder, and its obsessive dictator. “Voice is for this decade, what mobile apps were for the last decade, - the most disruptive and democratizing technology trend that enables millions of businesses and billions of people to transact better online and across multiple domains. We have seen an increase in demand for this technology during the pandemic and will continue innovating for a better consumer interface experience.”

In 2014, Rangarajan's startup Little Eye Labs became the first Indian firm to be bought by Facebook, going from creation to acquisition in less than 18 months. Little Eye Labs made software tool for analyzing the performance of Android apps.

Apps are how consumers primarily connect and transact with the brands today, and in the foreseeable future. But customers of today and tomorrow (aka the next billion users) have a problem with using apps. They are intimidated by the English-only experience of it. They also face other complexities that come with the rigidity of a touch-only experience like typing on a small keyboard, not knowing how to get to a particular page, spelling mistakes, and others.

But for brands, making the app available in multiple languages or simplifying the user experience is a hard, costly, and time taking challenge.

Enabling multilingual voice-based interactions inside their apps, even if the visual language of the app continues to be in English, is an opportunity for businesses to easily solve these problems. The firm said businesses can quickly reach over a 400 million users in tier 2 markets and beyond.

Slang in-app voice assistant is the flagship product of Slang Labs helping enterprises make their apps faster, easier and more accessible. The multilingual in-app voice assistant gets natively embedded inside the app as a multimodal overlay, allowing its users to transact with the app by just talking to it or by interacting with the visuals of the app directly. More importantly in their own language, even if the app’s visual language continues to be in English. Slang Labs’s unique VAaaS delivery mechanism allows for the brands to integrate this experience inside their app without having to worry about the overhead of building one from scratch or maintaining them.

Slang in-app voice assistant is built to understand the needs of different domains. It is easily customizable to suit the requirements of individual apps from that domain. The smart assistant abstracts out all the complex deep tech AI components (like automatic speech recognition (ASR), natural language understanding (NLU), text to speech (TTS), translations, the dialogue management system) and provides well researched UI/UX components, that work together to provide a delightful end-user experience for the users of the app.

While voice user interface has always been popular in internet search and entertainment, the next big leap for voice UI will be in the conversational commerce market. The world is witnessing the rise of voice assistants powered by artificial intelligence, increasingly being used across different domains like retail, travel, recruitment, and BFSI. This is therefore likely to revolutionize the online experience for people and brands.