Breaking down Google’s latest ‘India first’ features | HT Tech

Breaking down Google’s latest ‘India first’ features

A closer look at Google’s recent features exclusively for Indian users.

| Updated on: Aug 04 2019, 15:46 IST
Google bets big with several ‘India first’ features
Google bets big with several ‘India first’ features (REUTERS)

From alerting Google Maps users when their vehicle goes off-route to partnering with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for the "Loo Review" campaign, the bullish search engine giant has had a history of building India-first features for the world's second-largest population.

India also has the second-biggest digital market and the Internet population of over 500 million is expected to touch 650 million by 2020.

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Especially targeted at the vernacular audience, in 2014, Google introduced "Voice Search" in the country, which let users speak in Hindi to navigate the web.

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Google's virtual assistant -- Google Assistant - can now read web content in 28 regional languages including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, and Tamil.

"By focusing on voice and vernacular, Google is innovating for a new generation of mobile-first, and mobile-only Internet users, connecting the unconnected, and enabling them to access and experience, Google's suite of products and platforms," Prabhu Ram, Head, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, told IANS.

One of Google's most-popular India-first features introduced on Maps in June 2019 is called "Stay Safer" which has been designed to give people travelling in taxis and auto-rickshaws peace of mind, or avoid being taken through a longer route.


As part of the feature, if the user's driver deviates more than 0.5-km from the Google Maps' suggested route, the user's phone would buzz with a prominent notification, and they can tap it to see where they are compared to the original route.

"Innovating for India's digital surge provides Google with opportunities to experiment, iterate, fail-fast, as well as scale successful made-in-India solutions globally," noted Ram.

In partnership with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Google launched "Loo Review" campaign in September 2018 to encourage all local guides in India to rate and review public toilets on Google Maps.

This is part of a feature which allows all citizens to locate public toilets in their cities on Google Maps, Search and Google Assistant and also provide feedback.

Google Maps currently has more than 45,000 community and public toilets as part of the campaign.

Google's Cloud business, with an annual revenue run rate of over $8 billion globally, is now on route to explore the government sector in India as various state governments are taking initiatives like smart cities and have plans to move their workloads to a secure on-premise as well as public Cloud.

There's been an upward trend in Cloud adoption in India and according to Nasscom, Cloud spending in India is estimated to grow at 30 per annum to cross the $7 billion mark by 2022.

Driving digital transformation, more than a million small and medium businesses (SMBs) have set up their websites through Google Business till date.

"There are over 26 million listings that have been set up by businesses. There are about 58.5 million SMBs in India and 45 per cent of them have a presence on Google Maps and Google Search. We're continuing our efforts on that," Shalini Girish, Director, Google Customer Solutions, India, recently told IANS.

The company made instant bank-to-bank transfers via Unified Payments Interface (UPI) available with Tez in 2017. It was later rebranded as Google Pay in August 2018.

Google Pay has over 25 million monthly active users (MAUs) in India.

Aiming to make public transport journeys seamless, Google in June 2019 introduced bus travel times from live traffic in 10 of the largest cities in India, live train status for trains and mixed-mode commute suggestions that combine both auto rickshaw and public transport.

Earlier in July, Google Maps added three new features for Indian users to help them discover local experiences and get recommendations that are personalised for better dining experience, including an "Offers" section to help them find deals and claim them at restaurants in 11 cities.

The feature was rolled out in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Goa, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Chandigarh and Hyderabad.

In another first, Google teamed up with Cisco to roll out free, high-speed public Wi-Fi access in India, an initiative aimed at the next billion users of the Internet.

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First Published Date: 04 Aug, 15:46 IST