Google’s readying a mystery product for India because “fast is better than slow”

Wait till Monday.
Wait till Monday.
Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File
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Google, the world’s biggest web search engine, is up to something in India.

In an ambiguously-worded media invite for a press conference, the tech giant said it would, on Sept. 18, announce, “the launch of a new product developed grounds-up for India.”

It refused to reveal anything more. To an email query from Quartz, company officials had a tantalising GIF response: 

Google’s response.

According to a news report on The Ken (paywall), though, the Mountain View, California-based company is set to unveil its mobile payment service application, Tez (fast in Hindi). Google is expected to partner with large private banks and use the government-backed Unified Payment Interface (UPI) that allows inter-bank payments, The Ken said.

Tez, likely to be available for both desktops and Android phones, may integrate other e-wallet players like Paytm and MobiKwik with its platform, the report said.

The market-pull

Indications are also that the internet company doesn’t want to lose out on India’s e-payments pie which, according to the Boston Consulting Group, could grow exponentially to touch $500 billion, contributing 15% to India’s GDP by 2020. Other international players like Facebook-owned WhatsApp, too, have shown interest in the space.

However, they all may be stepping into an overcrowded segment.

Apart from the 55 non-banking players like Paytm and Mobikwik, most Indian banks, too, already have e-wallet services. Online retailers and entertainment companies like Bigbasket.in and Bookmyshow.com also have launched similar products. Then there are the government-backed UPI and BHIM apps. Some tech companies like messaging app Hike have even sought to piggyback on UPI. 

Can Google still win?

But Google may still make it.

“There are lots of new players coming in but the ones that are likely to succeed are the ones where they already have some sort of an engagement built in with the customers. They can then use this to promote the payment channel as an additional move,” explained Vivek Belgavi, leader, financial services technology at PwC India. “And this is very clear in Google’s case.”

Another reason Google would establish itself is the interoperabilty of the UPI platform. Unlike, other e-wallets, it allows users to transfer money across banks.

Moreover, Google, through its Android Pay, has already been in the arena for over two years. Tez is now expected to be modeled around its earlier wallet offering, according to The Ken report.

Nevertheless, whatever it is that Google does on Monday, India will be all eyes and ears.