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Google’s Navlekhā to digitise offline print publications; Google Pay to offer loans

In its annual Google for India event today, Google unveiled Navlekhā, a platform for offline news publishers to digitise their print publications. This works by letting publishers use Optical Character Recognition to convert the text on their publications — even if it was not originally typed in Unicode — and publishing articles as posts online (here’s a sample page by Google).

Google will provide free hosting to publishers on the platform, and will allot .page domain names, which Google has the exclusive rights for, to those who apply. The service is available in Hindi for now, and will expand to other Indian publishers soon, the company said.

Google said it would also provide AdSense for publishers to monetize on Navlekhā online. The company said that Navlekhā would boost the web presence of offline publications in India without any online presence. According to its estimates, around 135,000 print publications in India don’t have an online presence.

Tez rebranded to Google Pay

Google’s UPI payment app Tez will be rebranded to Google Pay to be consistent with the company’s payment offerings around the world. Caesar Sengupta, who heads Payments and the Next Billion Users team at Google, said that governments around the world had requested Google’s help in building a payment product like Tez. Google Pay will now also have an in-app process for applying for loans for users on partnered banks. Additionally, the company said it’s partnering with Pine Labs and BillDesk, who develop POS machines, to spread to more physical stores.

Other announcements

The company added some localisation touches to its products, and introduced new versions of products that it has previously launched:

  • Google Assistant is now available bilingually, regardless of whether the phone’s language is set to English or Hindi. It is now also available in Marathi. Google’s Feed on mobile will also serve content in Indian languages, depending on whether depending on what languages the company thinks a user likely speaks.
  • Google has signed a pact with the Andhra Pradesh government, and hopes to roll its Google Station WiFi hotspots out in over 12,000 villages, with a potential user base of 10 million people.
  • The company announced the Pie version of its stripped down Android Go mobile operating system, with turn-by-turn navigation on Google Maps Go, the lite version of the Google Maps app.
  • Redbus bus routes will now be more closely integrated with Google Maps navigation for long-distance journeys, as Indian trains have been. Railway tracking has also been improved on Google Assistant.
  • Google’s non-profit wing along with its employees will follow Apple in donating a million dollars to Kerala flooding relief efforts. The company also said it would pilot flood prediction and alert systems that are more precise and effective in the coming years.
  • Google Assistant will give Airtel users alerts and data balance information when they start running out of data.

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