Pinduoduo is setting up a new tech advisory board led by Baidu’s vice chairman Lu Qi

Pinduoduo wants to significantly improve its AI capabilities and recommendations engine

Lu Qi, who is already an independent board member at Chinese social commerce company Pinduoduo, is now set to lead a technological advisory panel with the goal of enhancing Pinduoduo’s artificial intelligence capability.

This will be necessary for building a better recommendation mechanism, said Pinduoduo’s founder and chairman Huang Zheng during the firm’s latest earnings call.

Pingduoduo, an app that combines group-buying functions with cheap products and social features, is utilizing distributed AI networks to tailor recommendations for users through machine learning.

“We know that for most people when shopping, they may not have very firm or precise preferences,” Huang explained.” You might be looking to buy a new jacket for spring, but may not have a particularly clear idea of what exactly you want until you see some choices. If a friend recommends something to you that broadly fits your needs and is at an acceptable price point, your inclination to buy that particular item goes up.”

Because product recommendations are so important, Pinduoduo is setting up a technology advisory panel that will be led by Lu Qi, he said, adding that Lu has extensive experience in AI and related technologies.

Lu served as Baidu’s president, COO, and vice chairman in 2017 but left in May 2018, retaining his position as vice chairman. Before this, he led Microsoft’s Applications and Services business as global executive vice president.

“In addition, we’ll collaborate with technology research institutions, both domestically and overseas to set up a joint research effort to further drive our distributed AI initiatives,” said Huang.

Pinduoduo’s R&D projects used up RMB 1.1 billion (US$162.3 million) in 2018, an increase of 764% year-on-year, primarily due to an increase in headcount as the company invests to build technical capabilities, according to financial statements released prior to the earnings call.