There are more than 450 million mobile internet users in India. With the internet making its way into the hinterlands, many multinational companies are taking steps to customise their services for the Indian market.
Recent figures indicate that Google has approximately 390 million monthly active users in India and yesterday, the US multinational announced a slew of measures to further its reach.
After rolling out Google Assistant (a virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence that can engage in a two-way conversation in both English, Hindi and most recently in Marathi) last December for the Reliance Jio smartphone, the US multinational launched Google Go, a lite version of its main application (Google Assistant).
Thanks to this latest app, users can now click on any webpage, and the application will read it out in 28 different languages.
“Powered by a natural language processing and speech synthesising AI, this technology can read billions of web pages smoothly in a natural sounding voice. It supports 28 languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi and Tamil—even on 2G connections,” Google said in a blog post.
Besides Hindi, English and Marathi, Google Assistant is looking to add about eight more new Indian local languages and integrate local applications such as Airtel, Hello English and Where is My Train, reported Hindustan Times.
The second major announcement was the start of a new initiative called Project Navlekha which aims to assist more than 100,000 Indian language publishers who are offline and transfer all that content online.
“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, and this number is expected to reach 500 million plus in the next two years. 95% of video consumption is in vernacular languages,” said a senior office bearer in the company to the media.
Another major step taken by Google yesterday was rebranding its UPI-based digital payments app Tez to Google Pay.
“In just under a year, Tez has found a place in the lives for more than 22 million people and businesses who use it every month. People from over 300,000 suburban areas, towns and villages are using it to pay their electrician, book bus rides or split dinner bills with friends,” said Caesar Sengupta, General Manager (Payments and Next Billion Users Initiative) in a blog post.
“In the coming weeks, these customers will be able to use Google Pay to take out a customised loan amount from their banks with minimal paperwork, and once they accept the bank’s terms, the money is deposited securely and instantly by their bank, into their bank account,” he added.
It will also look to work with major private banks like ICICI, HDFC and Kotak Mahindra to facilitate the process of money lending.
“In the coming weeks, these customers will be able to use Google Pay to take out a customised loan amount from their banks with minimal paperwork, and once they accept the bank’s terms, the money will be deposited securely and instantly into their bank accounts,” Sengupta added.
Additionally, there were two other significant announcements. First, the lite version of Google Maps, Google Maps Go, has been introduced, and it will soon team up with RedBus, the bus riding app, to display more than 20,000 routes in 1,500 cities.
Second, the US multinational is also looking to extend Wi-Fi services across 12,000 cities, towns and villages in Andhra Pradesh in partnership with the state-owned Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited to offer internet access to nearly 10 million people.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)