At the second ‘Google For India’ event in New Delhi, held on the day of its 18 anniversary, the Alphabet owned company talked about its vision for India and how it plans to connect the next billion users. Google announced a slew of new products aimed at Indian users who now form the second largest market for the search giant.
The company announced its Public Wi-Fi platform called Google Station, named to highlight its origins at Indian railway stations. It also announced that Google Assistant will be available in Hindi by the end of the year.
Google is looking to India as a key market for growth, and as such the company is debuting a host of new features that will be exclusive to Indian users initially. Google kicked things off by talking about the incredible growth in the country, stating that every single second, three Indians are making their way online for the first time.
With that, the company launched Google Station in India, a service that aims to deepen its reach across the country, as the search giant seeks to bring more people on to its Google platform. Under the service, Google will roll-out Wi-Fi hot spots in places frequented by a large number of people, such as malls and transit stations, and in social hangout locations such as cafes and universities.
Caesar Sengupta, Google’s VP for Next Billion Users, outlined the company’s vision:
Google currently offers free Wi-Fi access at 53 railway stations across India and plans to scale up the service to 100 by year-end, the company said. Sengupta also said the company is also looking at monetizing the service it offers at railway stations. Further details about Google Station are available on station.google.com.
Platstore optimized for slow network
With the launch of Reliance Jio a 4G war has started in India among the carriers but the reality is, most Indian users are still mostly on 2G connections. The reasons are many but the steep 3G data plans and speeds just on par with 2G, even slower, in some places, it’s safe to say India’s 3G connectivity more than just sucks, and now carriers want to move to 4G. To provide a better experience to these users, Google is kicking off a version of the Play Store that is optimized to work on 2G connections. Users in the country will be able to schedule app downloads, and Google is also offering a “Wait for Wi-Fi” option that defers app downloads to save on cellular costs.
Fast browsing launches today as an experiment exclusively to Play users in India.
Google Assistant in Hindi via Allo
A week after launching Allo in India, Mountain View-based Google on Tuesday announced that its ‘smart’ messaging app for Android and iOS will support Hindi language by the end of 2016. The AI inside the messaging app already supports Hinglish, which is basically, a mixture of English and Hindi. But by the end of this year, users will be able to chat with the AI in Hindi, as well.
Going local is the only way Allo can connect with more users. Users have been using WhatsApp, sort of religiously, in India, for sometime now. On the face of it, Allo is not very different from WhatsApp, only less appealing, which makes it difficult for Google’s app to attract more users, especially in India. That WhatsApp already supports Hindi language does not help its case either.
Google’s VP of search, John Giannandrea, said India is leading the mobile world with search queries on mobile surpassing desktop years ahead of others. “Google is now capable of translating 100 languages and 12 of these are Indic,” he said, again underlining how seriously Google takes this geography. He said search now uses Knowledge Graph to answer the questions people are asking, even in Hindi.
Google also talked about its video messaging app Duo, stating that after the U.S., India is the second-largest market for the app. Give how well Duo works on poorly-optimized connections, I’m not surprised.
During the announcement for You Tube Go — a new YouTube mobile app reimagined for the next generation of YouTube users — Johanna Wright, YouTube Vice-President for Product Management, shared,
YouTube Go is designed for Indian users. Building on the Smart Offline feature that debuted earlier this year, YouTube Go lets users easily download videos. The app shows how large a particular file is before the download commences, and users have the ability to choose 720p and Full HD content for offline viewing as well. The app also shows previews of videos, giving users more options when it comes to managing their data bandwidth.
- Video recommendations on the home screen based on what’s popular and trending around you.
- Video previews that load first to give you a taste of what’s inside so you can decide whether you want to watch or download, or not.
- Choosing the resolution and knowing the file’s size before you stream of save a video for offline viewing.
- Video sharing with nearby friends over Bluetooth without any data usage.
Soon testers in India will be able to use YouTube Go before the the product becomes more widely available. If you’re interested, you can now sign up for YouTube Go.
Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, Vice-President, Product Management, Chrome announced a group of tailored features for Chrome that make the web a better place for mobile users facing data constraints. Data Saver mode — which reduces the amount of data Chrome uses on Android mobile devices, computers, and Chromebooks — will now support MP4 videos, saving up to over two-thirds (67%) of video data. Chrome on Android will now also automatically optimize pages to their essentials when 2G-like networks are detected.
Chrome on Android’s new Download feature will now allow users to save web pages, videos, music, or pictures. Downloaded items can be easily accessed in Chrome’s new downloads tab, even when offline. And if users go offline before the download is complete, the process will automatically resume next time they’re connected.
As Google India head Rajan Anandan explains the next set of Indians will use the Internet in their own language. Even now, 150 million of the 350 million Indian users online access the Web in their own languages.
Ceasar Sengupta, VP for the next billion users, says the attempt it to create the internet the new users want. “Every second three Indians come online and we have to ensure that the experience is wonderful and relevant for them. But the next billion is very different from the first billion and by building products for these users were are preparing for how the world will use tech in the coming years,” he adds.
Google’s intentions to grow its business in India seem uite clear and although it is not the only software-giant to “look east”, it is certainly being the more agressive one.