Google announced on July 27 that it is relaunching Street View on Google Maps in India, more than a decade after the service was suspended in the country for failing to secure the requisite security clearances from the government.
This time around, the internet giant is partnering with two local firms - 3D mapping content and geospatial solutions firm Genesys International and IT services firm Tech Mahindra - to offer the service to Indian consumers.
Street View's India rollout is the first time that Google has tied up with local partners to offer the service to consumers, a model it hopes to scale in other parts of the world as well.
Google said the service will initially be available in 10 cities including Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Nashik, Vadodara, Ahmednagar, and Amritsar with plans to expand it to more than 50 cities by the end of 2022.
Users will be able to access this feature by opening the Google Maps app, zooming into a road in any of these cities and tapping the area they want to see. The idea is to provide users with an experience as good as walking down the road on their desktop or mobile phone.
The company claims that it has licensed fresh imagery from its local partners spanning over 150,000 km across these ten cities. It also plans to offer Street View APIs to local developers to help them deliver richer mapping experiences in their services.
"We believe the launch of Street View in India will be instrumental in delivering a more helpful user experience, from virtually visiting locations to getting a better sense of local businesses and establishments," said Miriam Karthika Daniel, VP - Google Maps Experiences.
"We remain committed to collaborating with local organizations and the government as we work toward delivering even more useful features and information on Maps. We will continue to do this responsibly, enabling accurate, authentic, and trustworthy information," Daniel added.
To be sure, Google Maps has been offering 360-degree Street View imagery in the country, albeit in a limited fashion. It currently provides these imagery for several monuments such as Taj Mahal, Khajuraho, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, and Ajanta and Ellora Caves through a partnership with Archaeological Survey of India in 2013 as well as certain private properties such as Sula Vineyards. The service is currently available in more than 40 countries across the world.
Licensing route due to new policy
Google, which typically collects street-level imagery for the service by itself through cars and bikes fitted with cameras, had to take the licensing route in India due to the country's recent geospatial policy which requires that only local entities acquire, collect, store and own the imagery data.
Genesys International, which recently closed a Rs 250 crore funding round led by Malabar India Fund, was the first company in India to launch the street imagery immersive content for all major Indian cities.
"Our fleet is still swiftly photographing Indian cities, bringing to life our city's amazing tapestry of streets and landmarks and allowing us to comfortably visit our old neighbourhoods or plan our trips. We are delighted to be a part of the Google Street View programme, and we feel that our partnership will go a long way towards offering the most helpful and engaging mapping experience for people and customers across India," said Sajid Malik, Managing Director of Genesys International.
Birendra Sen, Business Head, Business Process Services at Tech Mahindra said that the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) industry has grown manifold with time, due to increased data availability and the development of smart cities all over the world and their partnership with Google is another step towards delivering high-quality and immersive mapping experiences to people in India.
Sen said they are mounting cameras onto the cars and e-rickshaws from Mahindra and Mahindra and driving them through the street to manually collect data and license it to Google.The company aims to collect about 700,000 kilometers of mapping data over the next couple of years, he said.