Google announced on November 18 a slew of India-first product features and new partnerships at the seventh edition of its Google for India conference.
These features are aimed at helping new Internet users in the country get easier access to information in Indian languages, create more natural ways for local language speakers to interact with the internet and provide support for small businesses and youngsters in the country.
“Across people, businesses, and institutions, the outbreak of COVID-19 has catapulted India’s adoption of digital to unprecedented levels. With the fundamental drivers of digitisation now in place, and millions of new users coming online, India’s goal of becoming a truly digital economy is within sight. It is now imperative that we step up our efforts in building products that are even more inclusive of India’s diverse and unique needs" said Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & Vice President, Google India.
He said today's announcements aimed at "bridging more gaps and further broadening the inclusive base of India’s digital economy"
New Google Assistant-enabled vaccine booking flow
At the conference, Google senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan announced a new pilot of Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow on Chrome for Android browser in the country.
Set to roll out in early 2022, the feature will guide users through the entire process of booking a vaccination appointment on the CoWIN website through voice guidance in eight Indian languages.
"Over the last few years, we've strived to remove barriers to information and reduce complexity, especially with innovations in speech recognition and language understanding. India continues to be a global leader in the adoption of these technologies. In fact, the number of Indians using voice queries daily is nearly two times the global average, and one-third of Google Assistant users in India are communicating with it in local languages for needs big and small" Raghavan said.
Google's vice president of Search Pandu Nayak announced a new Google Search feature that will provide users an option to access translated versions of web pages from other languages for their queries. Through this feature, the search giant aims to tackle the lack of adequate local language content available on specific topics to deliver high quality results to consumers.
After this feature rolls out, if Google is not able to locate websites that have information in that language for a specific local language query, it will find high-quality content on webpages that could be in other languages and translate them into the language of the user's query.
When a user taps the translated title and snippet in search results, they can access the page with the content already translated into their language of choice, or view it in the original language, the company said. This feature will initially be available in five Indian languages including Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam on search results pertaining to education and science topics with plans to expand to all search results later this year.
In another India-first feature, Google Search will also let people hear search results out loud, in a bid to make it more accessible for users who prefer consuming information through audio.
The feature will be available in Hinglish (a combination of Hindi and English) and five Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil. It will also be rolled out to other Google Search experiences in the future to expand its voice-driven experiences in local languages in the country.
"We hope these improvements go a long way towards helping local language users access relevant information. We’re looking forward to bringing these and many more language-based features to Google products, to help advance the Indian internet ecosystem" Nayak said.
Google's payments app Google Pay is launching a speech-to-text feature that will allow users to use their voice to add account numbers into the app to initiate a payment along with an additional feature to split bills for shared expenses within a group. It is also adding support for the Hinglish language on the app in early 2022.
"With over 10 million merchants now on Google Pay for Business, and many more joining the fold of digital payments every day, we are making it easy for merchants and micro-entrepreneurs to create an online presence directly from the Google Pay for business app" said Ambarish Kenghe, Vice President, Product Management, Google Pay.
Kenghe added that the service's MyShop feature will enable merchants to build a storefront where they will be able to add images, product descriptions, and prices in an easy and intuitive manner. They will then be able to share the storefront links across the company's range of products and on other social media channels. The feature wll be available later this month.
New digital career certifications
Google has announced the launch of 100,000 scholarships for Google Career Certificates in collaboration with Nasscom foundation, Tata Strive, and SafeEducate who will help in identifying underserved learners across the country for a free enrolment to a Google Career Certificate of their choice.
The tech giant is offering certificates in areas such as IT Support, IT Automation, Project Management, Data Analytics and UX Design through the online learning platform Coursera. Gupta said they hoped to reach one million people in the next two years.
Apart from Google India, companies such as Accenture India, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Genpact, Times Internet, and Better.com will also recognise these certificates, the company said.
Enabling reliable micro-credit for SMBs
Google has partnered with Small Industries Development Bank of India to launch a $15 million (Rs 110 crore) financial assistance programme that will enable local micro-enterprises avail loans of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1 crore at competitive interest rates.
The programme will prioritise women-owned businesses and those engaged in the production of equipment for the country's fight against the pandemic, the company said.
"This marks SIDBI's launch of a paperless journey to its customers from onboarding to the disbursal stage. With renewed hope in making a full and vital economic recovery, we look to this collaboration to enhance our efforts in expanding the sector’s access to credit and are very eager to see the constructive impact that we can achieve together," said Sivasubramanian Ramann, Chairman & Managing Director, SIDBI.
Google announced its partnership with the Central Pollution Control Board to bring the latest Air Quality Information (AQI) on its search service. People can now search for “Air quality near me”, or “Air quality in <city name>” to view real-time AQI information from the nearest station.
It also has a partnership with Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) to launch weather alerts for extreme climatic conditions on Search. The firm claims to have sent 110 million notifications to at least 20 million people in affected areas across the country since the start of the monsoon season in 2021.