WMT - Walmart Inc.

NYSE - NYSE Delayed Price. Currency in USD
116.98
-0.13 (-0.11%)
At close: 4:01PM EDT
Stock chart is not supported by your current browser
Previous Close117.11
Open117.35
Bid116.99 x 1200
Ask116.95 x 900
Day's Range116.80 - 117.64
52 Week Range85.78 - 118.19
Volume11,587,657
Avg. Volume5,625,026
Market Cap332.724B
Beta (3Y Monthly)0.65
PE Ratio (TTM)26.45
EPS (TTM)4.42
Earnings DateNov 14, 2019
Forward Dividend & Yield2.12 (1.81%)
Ex-Dividend Date2019-12-05
1y Target Est118.88
Trade prices are not sourced from all markets
  • Roku Unveils Streaming Devices Roku Express & Roku Ultra
    Zacks

    Roku Unveils Streaming Devices Roku Express & Roku Ultra

    Roku (ROKU) launches new devices that are expected to strengthen its footprint in the increasingly crowded video-streaming space.

  • Corporate America Has Found a Way to Turn a Profit Off Being Green
    Bloomberg

    Corporate America Has Found a Way to Turn a Profit Off Being Green

    (Bloomberg) -- It’s time to stop crediting corporate sustainability efforts as acts of altruism. For big business, protecting the environment often means padding the bottom line.Nike Inc. has come up with a way to weave more efficiently, reducing the raw material and labor time needed to make each shoe. That has kept more than 3.5 million pounds of waste from reaching landfills since 2012. But the good news doesn’t stop with the environmental impact. The company is spending less on transportation, materials and waste disposal.The shoemaker’s “more environmentally conscious product has been a source of cost savings,” said James Duffy, an analyst at Stifel.Those flimsy plastic water bottles sold by Nestle SA? The ultra-thin design has a smaller impact on the environment while pushing down costs associated with packaging and shipping. Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. have poured tens of millions of dollars into a fund that builds out recycling infrastructure, reducing landfill tipping fees and recovering material that could be sold as new products.Tech giants have spent billions of dollars on solar and wind power, cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and energy expenditures at the same time. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon and Facebook Inc. are now some of the largest buyers of green power in America.Turns out it’s not just easy being green—it’s also profitable.“We’ve moved past this concept that business versus the environment is a tradeoff,” said Tom Murray, who advises companies on reducing emissions at Environmental Defense Fund, including Walmart, McDonald’s Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. “The business benefits were always there, but more and more companies are going after them.”The business case for going green has never been stronger as companies find ways to make more from less. Here’s a look at the ways corporate sustainability is making environmentalism pay.Lightweight Flights Cost LessUnited Airlines Holdings Inc. has been making its planes lighter, driving down fuel use and costs. Airlines account for almost 2% global carbon emissions. Not even the in-flight magazine has been spared in the search for unnecessary heft: changing to a lighter paper stock saved almost $300,000 per year on fuel. United redesigned airplane bathrooms, switched out beverage carts and ended duty-free sales. The company was also working on reducing its cabin waste to zero. What it pays: United has saved more than $2 billion on fuel so far.Hanging Hotel Towels Saves More Than Water It turns out that simply asking guests to hang up towels to dry and forego daily sheet changes can save hotel operators 25% off annual energy costs. “To some surprise within the hotel industry, this option was quickly embraced by hotel guests as a small way to engage in energy conservation,” according to a report by the Urban Land Institute. Clarion Partners LLC does that at all of its hotels and went a step further by reducing flows through toilets, faucets and showerheads.What it pays: Cutting water use saves Clarion hotels about $17,250 per year.Idle Trucks, Real MoneyWalmart runs one of the biggest trucking fleets in the U.S. That means scores of semis standing in traffic at any given time. At that scale, the introduction of technology that reduces energy use when trucks or idling and software that creates more efficient routes can improve fuel efficiency by 90%, reducing carbon dioxide emissions.What it pays: Diesel averages almost $3 a gallon in the U.S. Tech’s Green Power PayoffGoogle, Facebook and Amazon are among the largest energy consumers in the U.S., and a lot of that power is now emission-free. Each company committed to getting 100% of their power for their data centers from renewable resources such as wind and solar. Exxon Mobil signed up to energize its operations in Texas with solar and wind energy starting next year, which would place the oil producer among the top 10 buyers.What it pays: With renewables now cheaper than fossil fuels, these green energy commitments shave an estimated 10% off tech giants’ gargantuan utility bills.Paperless Bathrooms Are CheaperRestaurants, movie theaters and others have been making the switch from paper towels to hand dryers in their restrooms for years. Dryers have become the norm because of the savings on the cost of paper towels and the expense of sending garbage to the landfill. Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, made the switch and cut carbon emissions by 76% per use.What it pays: A football stadium can save more than $12,000 a year over the cost of paper towels. Re-Sold Clothes Are a MoneymakerPatagonia Inc. has been repairing and recycling clothes since its inception in the 1970s, making the practice a core part of the brand’s environmental image. Two years ago, however, the company added incentives for customers who return used items. This wasn’t just an act of urgency to keep clothing out of landfills. A 3-in-1 Snowshot Jacket that retails new for about $400 was recently listed on Patagonia’s Wornwear website for $187 to $207, more than twice the amount paid to customers in a voucher.What it pays: Each re-sale of a high-quality used jacket can net $100. “It’s a profitable business unit,” said Phil Graves, director of corporate development at Patagonia.Slender Plastic SavingsNestle has been saving money with ever-thinner plastic bottles, cutting the content in its half-liters by more than 60% since 1990. That also reduces the harmful chemicals and emissions produced from making plastic and saves on transportation costs. There’s also been a push to use more recycled material. Nestle recently started offering a 100% recycled bottle for its Pure Life water brand. Coca-Cola Inc. has decided to ditch plastic altogether for its Dasani line by pumping water into aluminum cans. That switch will make it easier to recycle and boost profitability. The cans weigh less, which cuts transportation costs. What it pays: 72 cents per pound of plastic resin.Beer With Less Spent on WaterLagunitas Brewing Co. was growing so quickly that its local water utility couldn’t process all the highly concentrated wastewater produced by its manufacturing process. Managing it all might have required costly upgrades to the municipal system. The brewer instead bought a new type of treatment system onsite that cleans the 7 gallons of high-strength wastewater made with every gallon of beer. The methane byproduct is used to produce electricity. Its one of the many breweries and vineyards out there that have now installed these systems.What it pays: Estimated savings more than $1 million a year on utility bills.This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to highlight climate change.(Adds zero-waste effort in ninth paragraph)To contact the authors of this story: Chris Martin in New York at cmartin11@bloomberg.netMillicent Dent in New York at mdent13@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Aaron Rutkoff at arutkoff@bloomberg.net, Lynn DoanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Amazon Expands Two-Hour Whole Foods Delivery to Catch Walmart

    (Bloomberg) -- Ever since Amazon.com Inc. bought Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, shoppers and investors alike have wondered how the e-commerce giant would integrate the upscale grocer into its sprawling online operation. Now, after two years of tinkering, Amazon is betting big on quick delivery from Whole Foods.In August, the company began a pilot project in select cities including Denver and Portland, Oregon. Mining the purchase histories of  Whole Foods shoppers who use their Prime memberships for discounts, Amazon zeroed in on items they buy routinely in physical stores. Then, the company began suggesting the same products on its main website with an enticement: free two-hour delivery. Previously, Prime subscribers looking for speedy grocery delivery needed to download a separate Prime Now app, which limited use of the service. Amazon is betting that offering the service on the main site will pull in more shoppers. The Prime Now app had only 1.8 million monthly average users in August, according to monitoring firm App Annie. Amazon’s website draws more than 200 million unique monthly visitors while its primary shopping app attracts 125 million users on average each month.As it has done before, Amazon wants to change shopping habits—in this case getting consumers more comfortable buying perishable products like bananas and yogurt online. That’s crucial if Amazon is to take on Walmart Inc. in the $840 billion U.S. grocery market.Encouraged by what it calls “very positive” customer feedback, the company has quickly extended the service to almost 30 cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit. “Most grocery customers buy the same things over and over again,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in an e-mail after Bloomberg asked about the program.  “The past purchases feature enables customers to quickly add favorite products to their cart.”The industry is grappling with how best to mesh physical and online grocery stores, a topic that drew 3,000 executives to the GroceryShop conference in Las Vegas in mid-September for panels on delivery, the future of stores and consumer behavior.Despite trying upend the grocery market for more than a decade, Amazon remains a tiny player. Walmart and its Sam’s Club capture 25% of all grocery spending in the U.S., according to Morgan Stanley, compared with 2% for Amazon and Whole Foods. Walmart has more than 4,500 U.S. stores, about 10 times the number of Whole Foods locations.Meanwhile, competition is intensifying. Walmart and Target Corp. are both investing in delivery options as well as in-store pickup of online orders, all geared toward time-strapped customers looking to simplify their errands. Walmart this month announced it was expanding its $98 annual grocery delivery service to 1,400 cities, undercutting Amazon Prime's $119 annual fee.Persuading shoppers to buy fresh food online isn’t Amazon’s sole challenge. Getting groceries to customers quickly is another. Offering two-hour delivery requires Amazon to show shoppers only products that are close to them, which isn’t easy because the 25-year-old website was designed to let anyone with an internet connection buy a product anywhere in the world. For that reason, Amazon launched its two-hour delivery service Prime Now in 2015 as a separate app detached from the main website, according to a personal familiar with the matter. That enabled Amazon to get the service up and running more quickly but limited participation because users had to download a new app. Moreover, Prime Now has offered a narrow selection of convenience store-style staples. The expanded service could help solve those challenges. Shoppers in cities where the option is available see a Whole Foods storefront on Amazon’s website. The storefront offers visitors discounts to entice them to try fast delivery of perishables and shows them previous purchases they made in stores. An optional filter lets them limit their search to what’s on the shelf in nearby Whole Foods locations in case they’d rather pick up the order themselves. “Amazon has been critiqued for not making full use of the Whole Foods acquisition, and this is about to change that,” says Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of New York e-commerce research firm Marketplace Pulse. “Having local stores act as two-hour delivery hubs is exactly why Amazon acquired the company.”(Updates with Prime Now app data. )\--With assistance from Matthew Boyle.To contact the author of this story: Spencer Soper in Seattle at ssoper@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Walmart to exit e-cigarette category as pressure mounts on vaping
    Yahoo Finance

    Walmart to exit e-cigarette category as pressure mounts on vaping

    Walmart is exiting the e-cigarette category completely, as a rash of mysterious deaths linked to vaping draws intense scrutiny.

  • Why Costco won't be handing out $10 billion to investors as many have speculated
    Yahoo Finance

    Why Costco won't be handing out $10 billion to investors as many have speculated

    No, the special dividend probably isn't coming to Costco shareholders. So chill.

  • This New Listing is a Bet on Keeping America’s Bridges, Roads, and Hospitals Shipshape
    IPO-Edge.com

    This New Listing is a Bet on Keeping America’s Bridges, Roads, and Hospitals Shipshape

    Atlas Technical Consultants Plans to Go Public via Combination with Boxwood Merger Corp. By John Jannarone From New York’s airports to crumbling roads in California, it’s no secret that U.S. infrastructure needs a helping hand. Fortunately for investors, there’s a soon-to-list company whose job is to be just that. Atlas Technical Consultants is a leading […]

  • Target Declares Share Buyback Plan: What Else You Should Know
    Zacks

    Target Declares Share Buyback Plan: What Else You Should Know

    Target's (TGT) healthy cash flow generation capability and efficient capital allocation efforts help it to enhance shareholder value. The company announces share repurchase plan of $5 billion.

  • Costco Stock: Bernstein Downgrades, Cramer Says ‘Buy’
    Market Realist

    Costco Stock: Bernstein Downgrades, Cramer Says ‘Buy’

    Bernstein downgraded Costco stock to “underperform” due to its high valuation and competitive pressure. Jim Cramer suggests a “buy” on the downgrade.

  • Bloomberg

    Amazon’s Emissions Bigger Than Some Rivals, Trail Walmart

    (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. contributed more greenhouse gas emissions last year than some big competitors in retail, logistics and technology, but less than rival Walmart Inc. and the world’s biggest energy companies, highlighting the growing scale and diverse businesses of the conglomerate.The disclosure by Amazon of its 2018 carbon emissions, 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, including purchased electricity and indirect emissions, came Thursday when the company committed to powering all of its business operations by renewable energy sources by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality a decade later.Amazon’s emissions exceed the reported totals of United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. as well as Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Target Corp. in data compiled by CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project. Amazon’s total is 38% less than rival Walmart, the group said.“It’s a big number,” said Bruno Sarda, president of CDP North America, adding that Amazon’s emissions compare to a large power company. “They probably wouldn’t make the top 50, but when you look at what’s up there, it’s mostly all the large fossil fuel companies.”An Amazon spokesman said the company’s disclosures, which accounted for emissions generated by customer trips to retail stores such as Whole Foods, captured a fuller picture than those of some competitors.Amazon for years has frustrated climate advocates by refusing to participate in increasingly common corporate social responsibility and environmental disclosures. But employees and shareholders have been pressuring the company to change. A shareholder proposal in May requesting an Amazon climate policy failed -- but drew 30% of votes cast.“We’ve been requesting this information from them for 15 straight years,” Sarda said. “They’re just not big fans of transparency, or using frameworks that others have developed to measure their performance.”Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos acknowledged that Amazon had work to do. “We’ve been in the middle of the herd on this issue and we want to move to the forefront,” Bezos said at a news conference in Washington where he encouraged other companies to set similar goals. “We want to be leaders.”Some corporate governance and environmental groups praised the Seattle-based company for the steps they announced on Thursday.“It’s very important when a company like Amazon or Walmart take major steps to be proactive on climate,” said Tim Smith, a director at Walden Asset Management and a longtime advocate of corporate action on issues of social responsibility. “I hope they’re getting the message that they received in the votes in the shareholders meeting, and from their customers, that they expect much of them.”Amazon’s carbon footprint reflects the company’s move from a humble online retailer into a plethora of energy-intensive businesses, including running massive cloud-computing server farms, and, increasingly, hauling its own packages by plane and truck and delivering them to customers’ doorsteps. The figures the company disclosed include emissions produced by Amazon’s own operations, the electricity that powers its facilities and more indirect sources like the cost of producing Amazon’s packaging and electronic devices, among other things.The company’s turn toward transparency on climate issues wasn’t the first time a major technology company decided to go out and grab the mantle of leadership on climate change. Apple has released an environmental impact report with increasing levels of detail for the past decade and stepped into the spotlight during in 2013 when it hired Lisa Jackson, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, as vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives.Apple started submitting investor disclosure information to the U.K. nonprofit CDP in 2014, the same year that CEO Tim Cook publicly snapped at a critic that if he didn’t like the company’s environmental policies he should “get out of this stock.”To contact the reporters on this story: Matt Day in Seattle at mday63@bloomberg.net;Eric Roston in New York at eroston@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack, Alistair BarrFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Assessing Retail Standout Costco (COST) Stock Ahead of Q4 Earnings
    Zacks

    Assessing Retail Standout Costco (COST) Stock Ahead of Q4 Earnings

    Let's dive into COST stock with Costco set to report its fourth-quarter fiscal 2019 financial results on October 3...

  • Buy Microsoft (MSFT) Stock at Highs for More than Dividend and Buybacks
    Zacks

    Buy Microsoft (MSFT) Stock at Highs for More than Dividend and Buybacks

    Microsoft (MSFT) stock appears to be one of safest mega-cap tech buys out there at the moment, even at its new all-time highs. And it just raised its dividend and announced a new share buyback program.

  • Sega gives people a good reason to visit GameStop
    Yahoo Finance

    Sega gives people a good reason to visit GameStop

    Sega hopes nostalgia will lure gamers to buy its new Genesis Mini console.

  • Retailers Push Full Steam Into Bumper Holiday Season: 5 Picks
    Zacks

    Retailers Push Full Steam Into Bumper Holiday Season: 5 Picks

    The growth in holiday retail sales bodes well for ecommerce providers like Amazon (AMZN), Walmart, Target, eBay and Etsy.

  • Will Retailers Raise a Toast This Holiday Despite the Glum?
    Zacks

    Will Retailers Raise a Toast This Holiday Despite the Glum?

    In fact, imposition of tariffs has left some of the retailers with no other choice than to go for selective price increases, while trying not to hurt sales during the holiday season.

  • Walmart Hosts Free Wellness Event in Stores Across the Country on Saturday
    Business Wire

    Walmart Hosts Free Wellness Event in Stores Across the Country on Saturday

    Walmart hearts customers and will offer free health screenings, low-cost flu shots and heart health information

  • Tariffs Cast a Pall Over Retail: 5 Stocks on Alert
    Zacks

    Tariffs Cast a Pall Over Retail: 5 Stocks on Alert

    The List 4 tariffs sparked concerns for the retail sector and American consumers making everyday goods expensive. Some retailers lowered outlooks for the current year due to the tariff woes.

  • One Way to Slow Climate Change: Pay CEOs to Protect the Planet
    Bloomberg

    One Way to Slow Climate Change: Pay CEOs to Protect the Planet

    (Bloomberg) -- The executives tasked with introducing Seventh Generation’s line of eco-friendly laundry detergents, dish soaps and cleaners to Southeast Asia faced a dilemma earlier this year. If the Unilever NV unit proceeded with the planned product launch before enough recycled plastic could be found for packaging, it could undercut sustainability goals tied to 20% of employee bonuses. Picking a non-recycled material could cost them all a chunk of money.   “If you don’t have access to recycled resins, then we just won’t launch,” Seventh Generation Chief Executive Officer Joey Bergstein said the company decided at the time. His team eventually found suitable material from the region’s fledgling recycling infrastructure, and Seventh Generation hit store shelves there without lowering standards—or bonuses. The search paid off for Unilever, too, with the same supplies of recycled resins going into the packaging of the European consumer giant’s other brands in Southeast Asia.Most large companies now set sustainability goals, but few impose consequences on employees who fail to meet them. Around 500 corporations worldwide tie executive pay to environmental, social or governance goals, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Not all of these are related to climate impact—diversity and safety are more prevalent than environment targets among this group.That’s beginning to change. “It’s is coming up more and more, but five years ago this wasn’t part of the conversation,” said Seymour Burchman, a managing director at Semler Brossy, a consultant that advises on compensation plans. With companies creating better data around environmental impact and risks, he said, the case for linking compensation gets stronger. “The board can’t ignore it.”The employers that most often link compensation to environmental impact aren’t crunchy consumer brands like Seventh Generation but gritty miners. Extractive industries need to measure environmental impact to get licenses required to operate in local communities, and Burchman said that incentive pay has been an effective way for miners to improve these results.Cameco Corp. links 40% of annual bonuses to safety, environment and community measures. Vale SA started linking emission reductions to annual bonuses in 2018. Rio Tinto Plc said in April it was considering how to link greenhouse gas cuts to short-term incentive plans. BHP Group—the world's largest miner—said Tuesday it will increase the amount of short-term incentives CEO Andrew Mackenzie has tied to carbon emissions reductions and climate metrics in 2020 from 4% currently. As more companies reckon with their carbon footprints and face pressure to embrace renewable energy, links between climate-related targets and compensation are spreading. General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra had seven sustainability objectives last year, including reaching 200,000 electric vehicle sales in the U.S. GM’s proxy statement denoted each one with a little green leaf, alongside other traditional financial goals for CEO pay like revenue, dividends and share repurchases. There are other executives at the Detroit automaker with sustainability goals included in their compensation, although a GM spokeswoman didn’t say how far these targets extend down the line.Climate goals for executive pay are more common in Europe, where companies like Novozymes A/S, the Copenhagen-based maker of industrial enzymes, gives each employee his or her own incentives for meeting financial, social and environmental targets. Food and beverage maker Danone SA bases about 10% of CEO Emmanuel Faber’s pay on meeting climate commitments and creating a sustainable supply chain.Sustainability is increasingly creeping into traditional financial incentives for companies — and even their suppliers.  Walmart, for example, has pledged to cut a gigaton of greenhouse gases out of its business by 2030, extending all the way into its supply chain. Earlier this year, in an effort to spur suppliers to do better, Walmart offered better financial terms to anyone who delivered on green goals. Walmart specifically links diversity and culture to 15% of executive incentive pay and 10% of pay for associates, but doesn’t break out environmental goals in its proxy.  In the credit markets, nearly $70 billion of green- and sustainability-linked loans were issued this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The loans let companies lower the cost of their debt if they meet specific sustainability targets. At Seventh Generation, the entire workforce sees pay change along with company-wide sustainability metrics. That puts the unit on the far end of adoption, which makes sense for an environmentally-minded consumer brand. “When you bake it into the incentive system people really feel compelled to go after it,” said Bergstein, the chief executive.Meeting goals on packaging and greenhouse-gas reduction prompted the launch of an ultra concentrated laundry detergent in 2018. The detergent weighs less, which the company claims will cut emissions from shipping by about 70%.Scientists working for Seventh Generation, however, have concluded that 92% of the company’s greenhouse-gas footprint stems from people washing and drying clothes at home—something very difficult for executives to change. Working with manufacturers to design washing machines that are more efficient didn’t seem like it would address that problem fast enough. So the company took an unorthodox approach.Seventh Generation set a target that 100 U.S. cities would need to pledge to shift to clean energy by 2030. If they didn’t, employees would lose out on incentive pay. Bergstein will admit that it sounds crazy: “What kind of control do we have over 100 cities across America to make that kind of commitment?” he said. “But we looked at each other and said if we’re really serious about cleaning up the energy grid, then we’ve got to do something like this.”Seventh Generation spent $1 million on lobbying efforts and worked with the Sierra Club and other groups to sway local officials. It worked — and its 160 employees got to keep their bonuses. “It would have been a lot easier to take that $1 million and spend it elsewhere,” Bergstein said. “But it really keeps your feet to the fire.”This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to highlight climate change.To contact the author of this story: Emily Chasan in New York at echasan1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Aaron Rutkoff at arutkoff@bloomberg.net, Tim QuinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Chevron, Walmart, ConocoPhillips, TransDigm and Phillips 66 Partners
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Chevron, Walmart, ConocoPhillips, TransDigm and Phillips 66 Partners

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Chevron, Walmart, ConocoPhillips, TransDigm and Phillips 66 Partners

  • Holiday Sales: Early Projections Set Bullish Tone
    Market Realist

    Holiday Sales: Early Projections Set Bullish Tone

    Deloitte expects holiday sales to exceed $1.1 trillion during the November–January period. Also, e-commerce sales are projected to increase 14%–18%.

  • Bloomberg

    Amazon’s Alexa Masters Hindi and Hinglish in Time for Diwali

    (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa has mastered Hindi in just a few years.The voice assistant introduced to India in 2017 gets a major local makeover for one of the largest retail markets. From Wednesday, Amazon launches a version that now speaks Hindi and Hinglish -- a unique blend with English. It can also switch automatically between all three. The new, improved Alexa and Echo speakers hit the market in time for the Diwali shopping season.The voice assistant lets customers to ask for music, get Bollywood news, cricket updates and more in Hindi and Hinglish on its Echo and other voice-controlled smart speakers. It will respond in an unmistakably Indian accent to Hinglish questions such as “Alexa, Bollywood ke hottest gane sunao” and “Volume badhao” (to ask for the latest Bollywood hits and increase the volume, respectively). “Alexa, latest cricket score batao” yields the latest scores.Technology giants from Apple Inc. to Google are targeting this nation of 1.3 billion people by training virtual assistants in the heterogeneity of its languages and subcultures. Alphabet Inc. too has introduced a Hinglish-speaking Google Assistant, while Apple has hired native speakers to evolve and enrich Siri. In Amazon’s case, Alexa may prove key in a battle against Walmart Inc. in one of the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce arenas, a battle the Seattle online retailer has staked at least $5.5 billion on.Until now, Amazon’s virtual assistant had a limited vocabulary of names, places and popular songs in Hindi and a few others of the country’s roughly one dozen official languages.Read more: Amazon Teaches Alexa to Speak Hinglish. Apple’s Siri Is NextUnderstanding Hindi and Hinglish is critical for companies targeting first-time internet users in the countryside, who are coming online rapidly thanks to cheap devices and cut-rate wireless data. The Hindi internet user base will outgrow India’s English internet users by 2021, according to consultancy KPMG. But even Hindi has dozens of dialects and regional variations.“Hindi changes every 100 kilometers or so,” Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s head scientist of Alexa AI, said in an interview. Alexa can handle varied regional accents and dialects. “Alexa has an Indian personality.”Prasad, 43, grew up in Ranchi in India’s Hindi-speaking heartland, hailing from a family of engineers. Computers were still new then and as a teenager, he abandoned cricket games to run home and catch Star Trek episodes on the government-run TV channel. “It was in the realm of science-fiction then but I was endlessly fascinated by computers and humans communicating with each other.”He studied engineering in the same city before heading to the Illinois Institute of Technology, later working in speech recognition at Raytheon before joining Amazon in 2013. “Having grown up in diverse India, it was indelibly etched in my brain that Alexa has to work for everyone, and not just English speakers,” said Prasad, clad in a casual shirt and jeans and seated in a hotel conference room in New Delhi. “It’s a daunting task.”For instance, the virtual assistant was trained to differentiate between the oft-used Hindi word “achcha” or “okay,” which can sound close to its wake word. In many households, a single conversation can have Hindi and English words liberally interspersed. Alexa will be able to respond in either language without the user having to change settings. The AI will keep learning and improving with time, he said. Alexa in Hindi will also be available on Bose smart speakers, and soon in brands like Motorola and Sony.“It took me 20 years to get here,” Prasad said. “There’s a big deep learning wave right now and if I think of something new in conversational AI, I know I have a fighting chance of getting it right.”To contact the reporter on this story: Saritha Rai in Bangalore at srai33@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Colum MurphyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Should You Buy Vegan Stocks & ETF?
    Zacks

    Should You Buy Vegan Stocks & ETF?

    Beyond Meat is one of the hottest IPOs this year and a new ETF aims to capitalize on the trend.

  • Top Research Reports for Chevron, Walmart & ConocoPhillips
    Zacks

    Top Research Reports for Chevron, Walmart & ConocoPhillips

    Top Research Reports for Chevron, Walmart & ConocoPhillips

  • Yemen's Houthi rebel attack on Saudi Arabia oil may hit Costco and BJ's profits
    Yahoo Finance

    Yemen's Houthi rebel attack on Saudi Arabia oil may hit Costco and BJ's profits

    Costco and BJ's Wholesale doesn't make much money on selling gas.

  • Walmart announces it will no longer sell e-cigarettes
    ABC News Videos

    Walmart announces it will no longer sell e-cigarettes

    The world’s largest retailer cited the growing concerns by health officials as the number of deaths linked to vaping reached eight.