Google for India 2021: new India-specific products announced to drive digital inclusion

Google will focus on product innovations that will help new Internet users get easier access to information in Indian languages, create more natural ways for local language speakers to interact with the internet, and provide support to India’s small businesses and youth.
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At the seventh edition of Google for India, tech giant Google announced a slate of new product features and partnerships in the country aimed at extending the benefits of India’s growing digital economy to more people. 

The US-based company reiterated its commitment to use its earlier announced $10 billion fund for India in digitisation.

Speaking at the event, Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and Vice President, Google India, said,

“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. Last year, we launched the $10 billion Google for India Digitization 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,” he added.

Here are some of the key highlights of the event:

Bridging talent gap with digital career certifications

Google announced the launch of 100,000 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 enrollment to a Google Career Certificate of their choice. Along with Google India, Accenture in India, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Genpact, Times Internet, and Better.com will recognise the certificates, and more will be added to the employer pool.

Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow

Google, which has worked closely with Co-WIN, will guide users through the process of booking a vaccination appointment on the Co-WIN website with voice guidance in English and eight Indian languages at each step. This feature will be available in Chrome on Android and will begin rolling out in early 2022.

Speaking about the importance of core information products and community inputs that helped Google to surface information for more than 10,000 hospitals with Covid beds across the country, Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President, Google, said,

“The pandemic showed us that we’re only scratching the surface of how we can make information as useful as possible. Over the last few years, we’ve strived to reduce this complexity and remove barriers to information, 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. 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.”

Also launching in India – a global first – is a feature that will enable people to hear search results out loud, making it easier for users who prefer consuming information by listening. 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.

Speaking of the launches, Pandu Nayak, Vice President, Search and Google Fellow, added,

“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.”

Making digital payments universally relevant and inclusive

With a goal to further simplify digital payments, Google Pay announced an industry-first and a first for Google globally the additional option of selecting Hinglish as a preferred language on Google Pay.

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.

Speaking about Google Pay’s focus in India, Ambarish Kenghe, Vice President, Product Management, Google Pay, said,

“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."

"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,” he said.

Further, Google Pay announced the upcoming launch of speech to text, which allows users to use voice as an input to add account numbers into the app to initiate a payment and an additional feature to split bills for shared expenses within a group.

Leveraging tech to mitigate the impact of climate change

Google has been at the forefront of developing technologies and initiatives to help manage and mitigate its detrimental effects.

Google announced 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. Searching for “Air quality near me”, or “Air quality in Noida” will show real-time AQI information from the nearest station.

Supporting micro-SMBs with reliable credit to spur growth

Google has also joined hands with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to launch a $15 million (Rs 110 crore) financial assistance programme, enabling Indian micro-enterprises avail loans of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1 crore at competitive interest rates.

Speaking about the new developments, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Hon’ble Union Minister of State, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said,

“Collaborations between government and industries will go a long way in reinforcing India's and Prime Minister Modi's Atmanirbhar Bharat mission. To achieve this, we must focus on skilling, talent development, and the capabilities India needs to become a significant digital economy player globally."

"Google's contributions through investments, technology, and platforms, can accelerate the adoption of digital to well beyond the 800 million Indians who are online. I am pleased with Google's focus on driving India-first launches and the progress that Google has made on delivering on their promises.”

Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, Hon’ble Union Minister, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Ministry of Education, signed off,

“With the digital economy’s potential to add millions of jobs, the government is committed to providing Indians every opportunity to upskill. PMKVY’s new phase focusses on digital technology and industry 4.0 skills and has already trained approximately 300,000 learners. It is heartening to see Google Career Certificates provide training in digital skills and launch an employer consortium to facilitate employment. If every Indian citizen has access to digital skills, it will not be long before India becomes a one trillion-dollar digital economy.”

Edited by Megha Reddy

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