Google for India: Key announcements from tech giant

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 18, 2021

Several new features were introduced from Google-Assistant enabled vaccine booking to local language updates for Search

At the seventh edition of Google for India, Google on Thursday announced a host of new product features and partnerships in the country.

The announcements underlined the tech giant’s focus on the “next billion users,” with product innovations meant to help new Internet users in India get easier access to information in Indian languages, create more natural ways for local language speakers to interact with the internet, make the Android experience more helpful, and provide support to India’s small businesses and young users, Google said.

Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & Vice President, Google India, said, “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.”

“Last year, we launched the 10 billion dollar Google for India Digitisation Fund. Today’s announcements aim at bridging more gaps and further broadening the inclusive base of India’s digital economy so that the advantages of this crucial transformation are accessible to everyone,” added Gupta.

Google Assistant-enabled vaccine booking

The tech giant piloted its first-ever Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow in India with step-wise voice guidance in English and eight Indian languages. It will guide users through the process of booking a vaccination appointment on the COWIN website.

Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President, Google, said, “The pandemic showed us that we’re only scratching the surface of how we can make the information as useful as possible. 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. I’m happy to share our next milestone in this important work, with a pilot of the first-ever Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow in India.”

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Google has worked closely with COWIN to enable this integration. This feature will be available in Chrome on Android and will begin rolling out in early 2022.

Updates in Search

The tech giant also announced the launch of a new feature in Search that will give users an option to access web pages from other languages and view them in their preferred local language. The feature was announced by Pandu Nayak, Vice President, Search and Google Fellow.

“Now, when searching in a local language, if Google is not able to locate websites that have information in that language, it will find high-quality content on pages that may be in other languages and translate these into the language of the user’s query,” Google explained in a blog post.

“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. This feature aims at bridging the information gap that local language users often encounter when searching for information online,” it said.

It is also launching a new feature in India that will enable users to hear search results out loud, a global first. Aiming to expand voice-driven experiences in local languages, this feature will be available in Hinglish and five Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil, and will be extended to other Google Search experiences in the future.

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“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,” said Nayak.

Google Pay updates

Google Pay today announced the additional option of selecting ‘Hinglish’ as a preferred language on Google Pay. This is an industry first and a first for Google globally. The option will be available on the platform in early 2022.

“With this addition, users will be able to easily navigate the app in the language of their preference, with Hinglish as an option to mirror how a large section of Indians interact naturally,” it said.

The tech major also announced the upcoming launch of speech-to-text, which will allow users to use voice as an input to add account numbers into the app to initiate a payment. It also announced a new ‘Bill Split’ feature that will help users split bills for shared expenses within a group.

It announced the MyShop feature on Google Pay for business. The feature will be available later this month. The feature lets merchants create their online storefronts. They can also include information such as their business hours, delivery policy, store photos and showcase their product catalogues.

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“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, said.

“With the launch of MyShop, merchants will be able to effortlessly build a storefront where they will be able to add images, descriptions of their products, and prices in an easy and intuitive way, then share the link, through their Business Profile, across Google surfaces and beyond Google on social media. We hope this will further fuel the adoption of digital payments amongst new adopters, and help them create their online presence, and gain from the growing digital economy. The coming months will see MyShop and other features go live on Google Pay,” added Kenghe.

Digital career certifications

In a bid to expand the base of digitally-trained talent that is ready for job opportunities in high growth areas, Google announced the launch of one lakh scholarships for Google Career Certificates collaborating 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 Certificates are available via Coursera for IT Support, IT Automation, Project Management, Data Analytics and UX Design. The tech giant has partnered with an initial set of companies that recognise the certificates. This includes Google India, Accenture in India, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Genpact, Times Internet, and with more companies to be added to the employer pool.

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Separately, Google also announced its tie-up with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to launch a $15 million (₹110 crore) financial assistance program, entailing financial assistance up to ₹1 crore at competitive interest rates targeted at micro-enterprises.

Climate change

Google also made announcements regarding its efforts to help mitigate the impact of climate change.

Talking about its current flood forecasting efforts in India, Google said that since the start of the monsoon season this year, it has sent 110 million notifications to at least 20 million affected people in affected areas across the country.

Building on this collaboration with authorities in India, Google announced its partnerships with the Central Pollution Control Board to bring the latest Air Quality Information, and with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) to launch Weather Alerts for extreme climatic conditions, both of which are now accessible on Google Search.

Also read: India second largest market globally for app downloads in 2021: Report

This can be accessed by searching for terms such as “Air quality near me”, or “Air quality in Noida.” It will show real-time AQI information from the nearest station.

Published on November 18, 2021

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