Google is courting India by bringing Bollywood one click closer

Riding the wave.
Riding the wave.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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India loves Bollywood and Google definitely knows it.

The US-headquartered search giant announced today a few improvements to its search algorithms, in order to cater to its Indian users. Google will now offer direct answers to Bollywood-related searches—about actors, movies, and even showtimes—instead of just producing a list of links.

One in 10 Google searches on smartphones in India are about cinema, Google said in a press release.

“As a tribute to our users and their passion, we are today showcasing the rich search experience on Google for everything cinema, focusing on more structured answers, visual elements, user experience that is suited to mobile,”  Google India explained in a statement to Quartz.

Google will use its Knowledge Graph system to enhance search about Bollywood. Launched in the US in 2012, Knowledge Graph provides actual answers to searches, instead of just related links. The idea is that users can use information provided by Google to resolve their query, without navigating to other websites.

Bollywood dominates search trends in India, with several actors regularly featured on Google’s annual list of most-searched people in the country. For at least three years, Canadian-Indian actor Sunny Leone has been the most-searched person on Google in India. Even in 2014—the election year when prime minister Narendra Modi was the talk of the town—Leone was the most-searched person.

In fact, eight out of the 10 most searched people in India in 2015 were related to Bollywood:

With its huge user base and low internet penetration, India is a key growth market for businesses like Google and Facebook. Despite being the second-largest internet user base in the world, penetration of internet in India is just around 30%.

That’s why Google is so focused on the country, even though it accounts for just around 1% of the company’s revenue. Google has in the past launched several India-specific initiatives, such as products that work efficiently on the country’s slow 2G internet connection, YouTube’s offline mode, and Google Maps allowing real-time navigation and searches without a data connection.

Google’s decision to enhance search results about Bollywood comes just days after the company’s plan to include India in its Street View feature was rejected by the government, citing security concerns. Street View is a part of Google Maps, and allows users to get panoramic views at ground-level.

For now, Indians may not be able to view streets on their smartphones, but the stars of Bollywood are at their fingertips.