Today, at the fourth edition of its annual Google for India event, Google announced new plans to bring more access to technology, more relevant product experiences in more languages to users in India. At the event, some new projects were announced that will enhance the Indian publication sector, whereas the new Google Pay will revolutionize payments.
Opening the event, Rajan Anandan, VP, India and Southeast Asia, said, “Voice has been emerging as the preferred mode of use for new internet users. We’re seeing major growth of voice queries in India. Furthermore, online video now accounts for 75% of all mobile traffic. And as for vernacular, the majority of the Internet users today are Indian language users, a number expected to reach 500 million plus in the next two years. 95% of video consumption is in vernacular languages.”
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The next major announcement was regarding Project Navlekhā, a one of its kind unique project to help magazines and various offline publication go online. As per Google, 90% of the 150000 government-registered magazines and newspapers in India, which turns out to be around 135,000 don’t have a website. It’s due to two main factors- the lack of technical expertise and the extreme difficulty in copying text in non-Unicode Indian language
fonts from PDF to web pages without a special scanner. To solve this problem, Navlekhā will support publishers in India and help bring more content in local language online. Navlekhā uses AI to quickly render any PDF with Indian language content into editable text, and setting up a website gets very easy with the support and assistance from Google, where Google will also provide free domain and web hosting, along with the support for Google AdSense.
Shashidhar Thakur, VP, Engineering, Google Search, said, “For Search to be truly helpful, it should bring you useful content, in all the languages you understand.” He also announced that now Google Go users will be able to open any page in English, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam, and Tamil and by just highlighting the words they can listen to each word. There have been some adjustments made to the Search feed as well, as now using users’ favourite topics of interest, it will display the relevant news from English and Hindi sources.
Last year, Hindi was added to Google Assistant and now, as per the announcements made today at Google for India, along with Hindi and English, the Google Assistant will now understand Marathi as well. Switching between Hindi and English is now easier and integration with Indian apps have been made deeper. From now on, businesses and developers in India can build Actions in Hindi. Popular services like Where Is My Train now supports input using Google Assistant and Airtel customers can now pull up data about their cellular connection using voice through the Google Assistant. Today, at the event, Gayathri Rajan, Vice-President, Geo, announced the improvements to Google Maps Go. Google Maps Go now brings turn-by-turn navigation functionality, a new home screen is now added that features convenient shortcuts. And after a new partnership with RedBus, more than 20,000 routes and 1,500 cities will also be added for intercity bus journey routes into the Maps.
However, one of the biggest announcements made today is regarding Google Pay. Caesar Sengupta, Vice-President, Next Billion Users initiative and Payments, Google, announced today at Google for India, that payments app Tez is becoming Google Pay.
He reminded that audience that building for India has often meant Google building for everyone all around the world. In less than a year, 55 million people installed Tez and among them, 22 million users are monthly active users. In total, 750 Million transactions have been made using the app, worth over $ 30 Billion.
Google will now make it easy to pay, as many payment technology partners like Bill Desk and Pinelabs will integrate Google Play and add it as one of the payment methods. Deeper integrations with online merchants will provide the convenience of making a payment with leaving the merchant’s app. Google is also working on building a merchant experience to help businesses find new customers through Google Maps and send customised notifications to the customers they already have.
However, another major announcement made today at Google for India, was regarding Financial services. Google is working with a few of India’s top banks like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Federal Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank to offer pre-approved, instant loans to their customers, from within Google Pay. This feature will roll out to eligible users within the next few weeks. If a customer is pre-approved for a loan, he will get a notification informing him about the same. Now, if a customer wants to borrow, he can set how much he wants and in what kind of timeframe, he wants to repay. After reviewing the terms, the bank will deposit the loan amount into the customer’s account, eliminating all the hassles of paperwork and wait.
Caesar Sengupta also announced that Google Station is partnering with Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited to bring Google Station to over 12 thousand villages, towns and cities in Andhra Pradesh reaching out to potentially 10M people. He also announced that Android Go smartphones will see further momentum, as Samsung will launch its first Android Go smartphone soon.
At the Google for India event, Google has also acknowledged that flood situations in Kerala and Karnataka, and hence Google.org is making a $1M USD grant which includes contributions from Googlers across the world, to several NGOs in India to support the relief and recovery efforts in the most impacted regions.