Google has announced a number of updates to its existing product and service portfolio at the fifth edition of the Google for India event in New Delhi. The highlight is Google Research India -- an AI lab in Bangalore that will be focussed on advancing the knowledge of Indian researchers in Al and other advanced computing fields. Google has also partnered with BSNL to expand its public WiFi initiative to villages in three states: Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar.
‘With Google’s ongoing commitment to prove access beyond train stations to villages across India, we have partnered with BSNL to bring fast, reliable and secure public WiFi to villages in Gujarat Bihar and Maharashtra. Google Research India will focus on advancing fundamental computer science and Al research and applying this research to tackle problems in healthcare, agriculture, and education while also using it to make apps and services used by billions of people, more helpful,’ Caesar Sen Gupta, Vice-President, Next Billion Users Initiative and Payments, said.
Apart from this, the company has also launched Vodafone-Idea ‘Phone Line’ which will deliver information to users (via Google Assistant) with slow or no mobile internet connections. Further, it has also expanded Indian language support across services like Google Assistant, Discover, Lens and Bolo app.
‘For many Indians, voice is increasingly becoming their preferred way to search, and today Hindi has become the second most used Assistant language globally after English,’ Manuel Bronstein, Vice President, Product Management, Google, added. He announced that the Assistant will now support nine Indian languages -- Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil Telugu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, and Urdu -- and users will now be able to talk to the Assistant more naturally. For example, Hindi speaking users just have to say, ‘Hey Google, talk to me in hindi,’ and the Assistant will start talking to you in Hindi. The feature will be accessible on all Android, Android Go and KaiOS devices.
Google also announced that the interpreter mode will be coming to the Assistant on Android and Android Go phones in the coming months. It is aimed at helping users translate any other supported language to the one they know. Further, Google partnered with telecom giant Vodafone-Idea to launch Google Assistant-supported Phone Line service that will enable Vodafone Idea users in India to call a toll free number (000-800-9191000) at any time and ask anything from the Assistant.
Google also added support for more Indian languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam and Oriya to Discover. Discover is a Google feed that gives users updates about stories on the topics they are interested in. The support for Urdu and Punjabi languages will follow soon. Additionally, Google Lens will also be available with Tamil, Telugu and Marathi language support.
Furthermore, more Indian language support has been extended to Bolo, a speech-based app that helps children learn to read. Apart from Hindi and English, kids can now learn learn to read Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. For this, the tech giant has partnered with publishers like Chhota Bheem and Katha Kids. ‘Bolo has already helped 800,000 young Indians read stories more than three million times, and speak half a billion words. In partnership with NGOs like Saajha, the Kaivalya Education Foundation, Pratham Education Foundation, Room to Read, and working together with state governments and schools, our aim is to make Bolo kuch even more children across the country,’ Sapna Chadha, Director of Marketing. Southeast Asia & India, Google, said in a statement.
In Google Pay, company’s UPI-based digital payment system, Google has introduced Tokenized cards for debit card and credit card users in India. Now, there is a new Google Pay for Business app for small and medium businesses. Additionally, merchants can now use the new Spot Platform on Google Pay for a seamless shopping and payment experience. The other major announcement is Jobs -- a service that will now help eligible applicants to find entry-level jobs at several places. The service has been launched in partnership with National Skills Development Corporation for their Skill India programme.
“The biggest story in India's booming internet economy has been the rise of digital payment. With BHIM UPI crossing 900 million payment last month, India is setting the global standard on how to digitise payments. In the last 12 months alone, Google Pay has grown 3X to reach 67 million monthly active users, driving transactions worth over $110 billion on an annualized basis, with hundreds of thousands of offline and online merchants,’ Ambarish Kenghe, Director, Product Management, Google Pay, noted.
Kenghe also announced the launch of the Spot Platform on Google Pay. As a part of the early access programme, Google Pay users will already be able to use Spot of popular services like UrbanClap,Goibibo, MakeMyTrip, RedBus, Eat.Fit and Oven Story. As mentioned, Google Pay also announced the launch of tokenized cards for debit and credit cardholders to offer a way of paying for things using a digital token on your phone rather than by entering actual card number. Tokenized cards on Google Pay will be rolling out in the next few weeks with Visa cards for HDFC, Axis, Kotak and StandardChartered banks, and support to cover Mastercard and Rupay and more banks in the coming months.
The use case of Spot platform has been expanded to find jobs. Google announced Jobs effort that will focus on entry-level jobs that are not easily discoverable online. ‘Jobs will be available as a Spot on Google Pay to help job seekers find and rename for entry-level positions that fit their needs. It is machine learning to recommend jobs and training content to help these users prepare for interview and learn new skills. Jobs also makes it easy for them to apply, schedule interviews and engage directly with potential employers,’ Sen Gupta added.
Job Spot has been introduced with 24 early partners like 24Seven and Healthkart in retail; Swiggy, Zomato and Dunzo in delivery and logistics; and Fabhotels in hospitality, with more sectors and partners to be announced in the coming weeks.