India, with its 460 million internet users, presents itself as a massive playground for any technology provider. Google, more than any other tech company, is uniquely positioned to create India-focused products and services thanks to the massive reach of Android in India and the company’s close tie-up with multiple government agencies and statutory institutions.
Each year, Google makes a marquee presentation of all the strides it has taken in India. The event is called Google For India and it’s like India’s own mini Google I/O.
This year too, Google For India saw company execs take the stage and recap the year gone by. Multiple new features were announced for platforms such as Google Lens, Discover, and Google Assistant led by local Indian languages.
Google also made some interesting India-first announcements. For instance, people in India can now make a phone call to the Google Assistant. India is also the first country to get Google’s new Spot Platform on Google Pay.
Let’s break down all those announcements for you.
New Indian languages for Discover, Assistant, and Lens
Google has noticed a massive uptake in the number of Hindi language users on its platform. In fact, Google says Hindi is the second most used Assistant language in the world after English.
Extending language support across its products in India, Google announced that the Discover feed will now be available in Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, and Urdu. Discover will also get support for Punjabi soon.
The translation feature on Google Lens which allows users to point their camera at text to translate it into different languages will now support three new Indian languages. These include Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi.
The translated text replaces the original text while keeping the background of the image the same. Lens can even read out the translation for those with reading disabilities.
Google’s Bolo app which was launched in India in March is also receiving support for more Indian languages. The app helps children improve their reading skills and has an AI assistant which listens, encourages, rewards, and assists them during the process.
The content pool for Google Bolo will now include reading materials in Bangla, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Google is also partnering with the Global Boom Alliance to bring hundreds of new books to Bolo.
Google Assistant in Hindi coming to Android TVs
Keeping with its language-related announcements, Google also said that the Google Assistant will soon be able to understand and speak in Hindi on all Android TVs. There is no definite date for this rollout, but Google said it will happen soon.
Additionally, users in India can tell Google Assistant to speak in any supported language through voice commands. So now, users can say, “Ok Google, talk to me in Hindi,” and Assistant will respond in Hindi. There is no need to go to settings and change the Assistant’s preferred language.
Interpreter Mode on Google Assistant
Google Home speakers and smart displays have an Interpreter Mode which lets two people speaking different languages communicate with each other by providing real-time interpretation during the conversation.
The same will now be available on the Google Assistant for Android and Android Go phones in Hindi. The Interpreter Mode currently supports 26 languages globally, Hindi being the latest addition. So now, when you want to speak to someone in German but all you can speak is Hindi, you can use the Google Assistant as your translator during the conversation.
Let Google Assistant order your pizza
Google India will soon be partnering with the likes of Dominoes, Fresh Menu, Behrouz, and other food delivery merchants so users can just ask the assistant to order food for them. The feature is currently only available in the US but will be rolled out with a limited set of partners in India soon.
Beyond food delivery services, Assistant in India will also soon be able to book Ola cabs. Amazon’s Alexa can already do all these things, Google is catching up though.
Google Assistant is now just a phone call away
Google is making it easier for people to access the Google Assistant in India. Nearly half of the country’s population is still not online so to give those people a way use the Google Assistant, the company has partnered with India’s largest telecom provider Vodafone-Idea and launched a toll-free phone number which dials into the Assistant.
Starting today, those using a Vodafone-Idea mobile number can call 0008009191000 to speak to the Google Assistant. Users of the service can currently talk to the Assistant in English and Hindi. Head here to read more about how phone calls to Google Assistant work in India
Google Pay expands with Spots
Google Pay was born in India as Google Tez and over the course of time, the payments app has managed to amass 67 million monthly active users. In a country of more than a billion people, that is still a drop in the ocean and Google acknowledges that.
To make Google Pay even more popular and expand its online as well as offline presence, Google has launched The Spot Platform on the app.
Spots allow businesses to create customized and branded experiences within Google Pay. So for instance, If you have a business of selling bags and your customers don’t know you have a website or an app, they can simply tap your Spot in Google Pay and access a website-like experience of browsing through your products and purchasing them using GPay.
As a customer, you don’t need to leave the Google Pay app and download another app for the business, bringing the service itself into the Google Pay app’s domain.
The Google Pay app also surfaces a relevant Spot to users on the home screen. So if it’s lunchtime, you may just see a Spot from your favorite restaurant show up on the app’s home screen.
These Spots can also be shared with other users on the Google Pay app or on any other messaging app.
Offline merchants can place Google Pay Spots Codes at their businesses for users to interact with by either scanning or tapping (for NFC-enabled Android phones). Spot tags are a mix of custom visual code and NFC so when users interact with them, they bring up a digital experience of the physical store in the Google Pay app, wherein users can buy products and pay for them online.
The Spot Platform is currently only available to users of the Google Pay Android app with iOS support rolling out in a few weeks. Spot merchants in India currently include Eat Fit, Goibibo, Makemytrip, Redbus, Urban Clap, and Oven Story.
Jobs on the ‘Spot’
Google is expanding its Jobs services and Google Jobs will now be available as a Spot on Google Pay. The Job Spot will be personalized to each user and use machine learning to recommend jobs and training content. The Jobs spot will also allow job seekers to apply, schedule interviews, and engage with potential employers. It will let them create a profile for themselves, which they will also be able to download and print to present as a physical CV.
Google is introducing Job Spot with 24 partners in retail such as 24Seven and Healthkart, delivery and logistics partners such as Swiggy, Zomato, and Dunzo, and hospitality providers such as Fabhotels.
A card for your debit/credit card
In the next few weeks, Google Pay will roll out tokenized cards in India. A tokenized card basically simulates your debit or credit card and acts as a digital token on your phone. This is something very similar to Samsung Pay, except that it does not support Magnetic Secure Transmission.
If you pay using tokenized cards online, you will not have to enter your card number, expiry date, or even your One Time Password (for transactions up to Rs 2,000). You can simply approve payments with the tokenized card which provides all this information securely to the merchant without the headache of entering it manually.
Tokenized cards can also be used offline for payments at retail stores using NFC.
Tokenized cards on Google Pay will be rolling out in the coming weeks with Visa cards for HDFC, Axis, Kotak, and Standard Chartered banks. Mastercard and Rupay support will be rolled out in the coming months.
Google Pay For Business
To onboard more merchants to Google Pay, the company has launched the Google Pay For Business app. The app is free to use and allows small and medium-sized merchants to register for the Google Pay platform without the hassle of physical verification processes. Merchants can upload their documents, provide verification information via Google Duo video calls, etc., to complete their registrations for Google Pay online.
So those were all the announcements from the Google For India annual event. Let us know what you think of all the India-specific features announced by Google in the comments section below.