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Round-up of Google for India 2021: Lots of announcements, but none too significant

In the past, major Google products made their debut this way but the event is just not as thrilling as it used to be.

Credit: Soumya

At the seventh edition of Google for India, the company introduced vaccination booking through Google Assistant, a loan initiative for small businesses, some minor updates for Google Pay, and (as usual) more support for Indian languages across its platforms.

While this annual event is focused on India-specific updates, in the past many of the features have gone on to become global with India serving as the ideal testing ground with its large and diverse population. But unlike previous years when major products like Tez (Google Pay) and services like free WiFi in railway stations were announced, this year was more muted. Here’s a round-up of some of the key announcements at Google for India 2021.

Improved local language support on Search and vaccination booking through Assistant

  • Improved search results for local language searches: “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,” the company said. Acknowledging that most information on the web is in English, Google said that this feature “aims at bridging the information gap that local language users often encounter.”
  • Audible results: Google also announced that users will now be able to hear search results out loud, “making it easier for users who prefer consuming information by listening.” This feature will be available in Hinglish and five Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil.
  • Vaccination booking with Assistant: “Filling a web form may sound trivial to most, but for millions who are unfamiliar with using a smartphone or who are unable to read, it can be daunting,” Google said while announcing that Google Assistant will allow users to book a vaccination appointment from start to finish on the COWIN website with voice guidance in English and eight Indian languages. This feature, which will come to Chrome on Android in early 2022, was developed with COWIN, the company said

“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.” — Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President at Google.

  • Air Quality Information and Weather Alerts now on Search: Google is partnering 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, and both this information will be available to users on Search. “Searching for “Air quality near me”, or “Air quality in Noida” will show real-time AQI information from the nearest station,” the company said.

More support for small businesses

  • Facilitating loans for micro-enterprises: Google announced that it is partnering with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to launch a Rs 110 crore ($15 million) financial assistance program that enables Indian micro-enterprises to avail loans of Rs 25 Lakh to Rs 1 crore at competitive interest rates. “The program will prioritize women-owned businesses and those engaged in the production of equipment for the country’s fight against the pandemic,” the company said.
  • Storefront on Google Pay: The over 10 million merchants who use Google Pay for Business will soon be able to set up a digital storefront from within the app. A feature called MyShop will allow these businesses to add images, descriptions of their products, and prices in an easy and intuitive way, and then share the link on Google services and social media, the company said.

Google Pay: Hinglish and bill split

  • Hinglish and voice input: Google Pay now allows users to set Hinglish as a preferred language, which will allow users to easily navigate the app in a language that mirrors “how a large section of Indians interact naturally,” the company said. Furthermore, users will be able to use voice to input account numbers and to initiate payments.
  • Bill split for group expenses: Google Pay will (finally) begin allowing users to split bills for shared group expenses.

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