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Bengaluru/Mumbai: Google Pay, the payments arm of search giant Google, is betting big on voice-led payments in India as it bolsters its services for Indian kiranas to expand the reach of its platform.

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

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

The company also announced its decision to introduce ‘Hinglish’ (a blend of Hindi and English) as a language on Google Pay, to drive convenience for more people in the country. 

Google Pay, which was launched as Tez in September 2017 in India, boasted 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 that 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. 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. 

Google Pay also said it will launch ‘MyShop’, which will provide merchants quick store builder tools, allowing them to add images, descriptions, catalogues and then share the link across social media. 

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

Google’s arch-rival 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," Kenghe said on the ‘MyShop’ launch.

Last year, PhonePe had 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 partnered with digital non-banking finance companies including Flexiloans to provide credit to pandemic-struck offline retailers. Google Pay has also partnered 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 from 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," Kenghe said. 

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

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