Google Pay bets on voice, kirana-tech in India

BENGALURU/MUMBAI: Google Pay, the payments arm of Internet search giant Google, is betting on voice-led payments in India, bolstering its services for kiranas, as the platform looks to open new used-cases for customers.

As a part of its Google for India 2021 event on Thursday, the company said it will roll out a ‘speech-to-text’ feature for its Indian consumers, which will allow them to use voice input for making payments directly to a user’s bank account.

Users can use voice to input the payee’s bank account numbers in Hindi or English into the app instead typing out. The account number is then confirmed with the sender before initiating payment.

The company also announced its decision to introduce ‘Hinglish’ (Hindi and English) on Google Pay, to drive convenience for the larger mass.

Google Pay, first launched as Tez in September 2017 in India, boasted of 150 million users worldwide last year, with a major portion of its customers in India.

“More needs to be done for simplifying (digital) payments further. Using payments should feel natural, not like using a product, but rather like how ‘money’ is supposed to be used — frictionless. […]Because of the pandemic, there is a disparity which has been created because customers have needed to use online at some point. Some people could use it easily, others couldn’t. So it is critical to make it simple (for people to transact digitally). Only then, more people could use it,” said Ambarish Kenghe, vice president, product Management, Google Pay in an interaction with Mint and VCCircle.

The Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based payments app has also been bolstering its play with kiranas over the past year, as it looks to fuel its growth in the merchant payments space.

As a part of the new announcements, Google Pay also said that it will launch ‘MyShop’, which will provide merchants quick store building tools, allowing them to add images, descriptions, catalogues and then share the link across social media.

The functionality will be available to merchants using the Google Pay for Business app, and will allow users to chat or call local stores and pay on the chat window.

Google’s archrival PhonePe had launched a similar service under its ‘Stores’ offering in the first half of last year.

“We were very focused on payments and creating more fintech opportunities. This is about giving merchants what they wanted and giving them that opportunity. It’s hard to say how this sort of evolves in the future. It’s really a need based thing. Depending on what merchants want, I think our products evolve in that direction,” said Kenghe on the ‘MyStore’ launch.

Last year, PhonePe partnered with logistics firm Shadowfax to pilot hyperlocal deliveries for its offline kirana merchants in Bengaluru.

Google Pay has also been ramping up its value-added services for kiranas over the past year, enabling credit and inventory management for merchant partners.

Earlier this year, the platform has partnered with digital non-banking finance companies including Flexiloans to provide credit to pandemic-struck offline retailers. Google Pay has also tied-up with business-to-business retailer StoreKing and hyperlocal service Dunzo to help kiranas get better access to direct inventory, the company said.

Mint had reported on 9 February that infrastructure outages in banking partners had led to Google Pay losing out on transaction growth.

“We’re working across the ecosystem and making sure that we are ready for today’s growth, for spikes, as well as for the future. This is a continued journey we’ll have to stay on as an ecosystem. If we are not ready for the future, the infrastructure will not sustain,” said Kenghe.

Google Pay registered close to 1.45 billion payment transactions in October, cornering almost 34% market share in the highly contested UPI payments space, according to latest data released by retail payments organisation National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)

It continues to be a close market second to leader PhonePe, which registered 1.93 billion transactions in October, cornering almost 45.8% of market share.

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