makemytrip: MakeMyTrip collaborates with Microsoft to introduce voice assisted booking in Indian languages

India’s largest online travel-booking service is rolling out a voice chat service powered by artificial intelligence, becoming the country’s first major company to harness recent advances in generative AI. MakeMyTrip Ltd. will use Microsoft Corp.’s Azure Open AI technology for the chat, initially available in English and Hindi, the Indian company said in a statement Monday. The voice assistant will appear on the company’s app and the front page of its travel site and is designed to help users book flights and holidays.

Nasdaq-traded MakeMyTrip is trying to expand beyond India’s 75 million high-frequency e-commerce users, targeting hundreds of millions of new potential customers. The country’s expanding middle class includes consumers who aren’t conversant in English or comfortable with technology.

“The next phase of MakeMyTrip’s growth will come from India’s 100 million e-commerce users who prefer to engage in their own language and via voice,” Rajesh Magow, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in a video interview. “We have to bridge the gap.”

The company, which plans to add further Indian languages to the service, showcased an AI voice trial chat in the Bhojpuri language native to parts of northern India. The AI agent offered airline information, flight dates, timings and pricing. After choosing a trip, users received a QR code to help them complete a payment.

The services uses a combination of GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 systems developed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, MakeMyTrip said.

The world’s most populous country has 800 million internet and 600 million smartphone users, but only about 150 million of those make purchases online and high-frequency transactors are just half that, Magow estimates. India has 22 official languages and most of the 1.4 billion population isn’t comfortable with typing or using English language apps or websites, he said.

“We want to use the voice bot to reach a new set of users from India’s smallest cities and towns,” Magow said. “But adoption will take time.”

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