Diana Layfield, vice president and head of finance and commerce products on Google’s Next Billion Users team, tells Moneycontrol that the Tez app presents exciting ways in which merchant functionality can evolve.
Even as Google’s foray into India’s digital payments space began with its Tez app on Monday, the Internet giant’s big bet in the country will be integrating this new platform with its existing services and products.
“Imagine that in a local environment, where in combination with geolocation, for example Google Maps, we can tell you there is a small store that accepts Tez just round the corner, and that store can reach out to you with a local offer. That’s exciting for you as a user and for the merchant. You can see some very exciting ways in which the merchant functionality can evolve,” Diana Layfield, vice president and head of finance and commerce products on Google’s Next Billion Users team told Moneycontrol.
Tez is an app built on the unified payments interface or UPI, a system that allows account holders of all banks to send or receive money from their smartphones without the need to enter their netbanking user ID or password.
Google has taken things a step further by eliminating the need for users to even share their phone numbers when in close proximity with each other.
So you can potentially pay your rickshaw wala, or local grocery store by pairing your phones- over an “audio QR” technology that Google has developed which uses ultrasound through the sound in your smartphone’s microphone- and never share your numbers.
Existing payment wallets such as Paytm or Mobikwik require a number to be shared for a transfer to be made. Tez also supports a similar kind of transfer, and identifies the people in your contact list who have the app installed-much like WhatsApp - and lets you transact with them.
However, Layfield says that while local merchants making local offers could be a gamechanger, but with obvious privacy repercussions. What this means is that if you’re in the vicinity of a milk vendor, for example, who uses Tez for payments, he could send you a notification for discount or attractive offer for you to avail.
It is not immediately clear from the permissions the the app wants if merchants can see your transaction history or not.
However, the company was quite upfront taking questions about privacy and how user data controls are dealt with. Speaking to reporters after the launch of Tez by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Caesar Sengupta, vice president of Next Billion Users initiative at Google, said that companies having data was neither unique, nor exclusive to Google, and the users of Tez have “full control” over their data and can delete any stored data that they want.
On the privacy front, the company has also steered clear of linking Tez with Aadhaar, because of a “lack of clarity” on the rules around the linkage, Sengupta clarified.
Aadhaar, India’s identity programme, has been in the eye of a storm for its increased and near-mandatory linkage to everything — right from bank accounts to mobile SIM cards to passports — and the many ways this information can be interlinked and misused by different agencies and the government.
India is a big bet for Google, and the Next Billion Users initiative aims to bring as many people online as possible. With the urban markets mostly online, it is now the smaller centres that are taking centre stage.
That explains why Tez supports seven Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu — apart from English, on Android phones. In the Apple ecosystem however, only English and Hindi are supported.
“That is essentially because the research that we did told us that the iOS users were likely to use those languages primarily. We will (consider expanding to other languages for iOS) but as you may know there are some challenges in terms of how iOS renders those other languages. But obviously as they improve that we would be keen to make it work there also,” said Layfield.
Another issue raised was that of Tez not being available for feature phones, which are still used by a vast majority of the people in tier 2 and tire 3 cities.
“When we look at feature phones specifically, UPI itself doesn't work on feature phones as yet… When that changes we will be keen to take it up,” said Layfield.
While UPI does support Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), which lets people transact through UPI even without an app or Internet connection, Layfield said it “doesn't work properly”.
Within just a day of launch, the Google Play store shows that Tez has been downloaded by between 50,000 to a lakh users, and already had over 7,500 reviews at the time of writing. While over 50 percent reviewers gave the app five stars, close to 23 percent also left a rating of one- the lowest.
The app went online on Google’s Play Store and the Apple App Store on Monday morning, hours before the official launch, and was downloaded by several people who complained of glitches and onboarding issues.“The thing is the app wasn't supposed to be live until the Finance Minister pressed the send button (for a transaction at the launch). We were still in various testing and partially complete phases so although we're delighted that thousands of people downloaded and tested it they weren’t really supposed to be. In some sense they met everyone before they were fully dressed,” said Layfield.The Great Diwali Discount!
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