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Last Updated : Sep 19, 2019 12:31 PM IST | Source:

Payments, jobs and using tech to improve lives will drive Google’s India growth

Google is launching payment platforms for merchants and users, a jobs match-making for blue-collar workers, and a research lab that will focus on foundational artificial intelligence solutions to solve local problems

Sunny Sen @SunnySen

The sudden growth in the number of internet users has made companies go back to their playbook and rethink their domestic strategy. “India is changing faster than any other market we have seen… the change in the last five years has been staggering,” said Caesar Sengupta, General Manager -- Payments and Vice President, Next Billion Users at Google.

That makes it important for Google executives to get out of their offices and visit towns and villages to understand what users want. Based on the findings, the company is launching payment platforms for merchants and users, a jobs match-making for blue-collar workers, and a research lab that will focus on foundational artificial intelligence solutions to solve local problems.

Its India innovation will be driven by the large number of users joining the internet every day. Between 2017 and 2018, India added 85 million new internet users to take its tally to 481 million, according to the Kantar IMRB report of 2019. By 2019-end, the total number of internet users is expected to be 627 million.


With China almost shut for American tech companies like Google, India remains the only large country of opportunity. Earlier this year, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said the scale of the Indian market allows the technology giant to develop products here and take it global.

Five years ago that was not the case. “We did some stuff that was purely India first. But a lot of our stuff was like, let’s take the best technologies we have and make it work better in India,” Sengupta said. Maps was made available offline, and so was YouTube. Lighter versions of Android, search and YouTube, were also launched. “Now we're building products for India. Google Pay is leading the world in payments, starting with India,” he added.

Google Pay already has 67 million active users and sees $100 billion in annualised transactions. Two-third of these transactions happen in Tier II and III towns. To grow the payment business further Google wants to tap merchants. So, it launched Google Pay For Business, a new app for merchants, where the validation of the merchant can be done remotely. After downloading the app, the merchant presses a button and gets connected to a Google agent via a video, who in turn on-boards them. “All the stuff that an agent would have done walking into their store can now be done via video. We use image recognition and other signals to make sure that there is no fraud,” Sengupta said.

Another opportunity was getting the 800 million debit card and 50 million credit card owners to use Google Pay. Using a crypto-based tokenisation method a user can make payments and the amount gets debited from the card, which has to be registered on Google Pay.

“A short-lived token gets shared and is tied to your device to offer two-factor verification,” Sengupta said. For now, it will only be available on Visa cards. The tokenisation gets rid of the one-time-password process and shifting between multiple screens to make a payment. RuPay cards and Master Card will be on-boarded soon, he promised.

The tech behemoth also launched the Spot platform, which allows online merchants to integrate their entire store with Google Pay. The user just needs to scan the merchant’s Spot Code (a unique QR code like image), which opens an online store inside Google Pay. “You don't have to download anything (apps). It’s instant, super-fast, with no downloads and installations,” Sengupta explained. Eventually, it will open this up to offline merchants.

Google is also using its Spot platform for matchmaking blue-collar and entry-level jobs. “If you are a retail assistant, or a delivery logistics person, or in the hospitality business, finding those jobs are very hard,” Sengupta said. Google, through it’s a new platform Kormo, will help those employees find a job. Kormo is integrated with Google Pay, which allows finding jobs on the payment app. The company has already partnered with 24 employers, which includes Swiggy, Dunzo and FabHotels.

If finding jobs isn’t enough, Google is opening up a Google Research Centre in Bengaluru, which is going to be led by a senior AI researcher called Manish Gupta, to discover AI-based solutions in the areas of healthcare, education, among others. Sengupta said it is early days to disclose specifics.

The company is also building products keeping women at the centre of product design. “We have done a lot of research on what are the factors that will make women feel more comfortable using our products. In India, there's a pretty big gender disparity in terms of internet usage,” Sengupta said.

For example, a lot of women don’t want to upload their photograph as a profile picture as it makes them insecure. Google Pay’s audio QR feature helps women seeking anonymity and who don’t want to share their phone number.

But, Google doesn’t want to abandon the feature phone yet. It launched Phoneline with Vodafone, where a user can call the 800 number and can ask questions to a Google Assistant (its intelligent voice assistant). “You don’t need a smartphone…You just need to have a phone,” Sengupta said.

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First Published on Sep 19, 2019 12:31 pm
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