NEW DELHI : Google has initiated a host of measures aimed at strengthening its presence in the country, including an integrated payments and jobs app and the launching of an artificial intelligence (AI) research lab in Bengaluru.

Announcing these initiatives at its annual ‘Google For India’ event in Delhi on Thursday, the company said Google Pay will not be just a payments platform but also allow merchants to make their own customized experiences on the platform, allow users to add their credit and debit cards, and help people find entry-level jobs.

Google already runs a Jobs platform as a standalone app in Bangladesh and Indonesia. In India though, it is incorporating the jobs search inside Google Pay, perhaps because of the app’s reach in the country. According to Google, the app has 67 million users in India and supports the National Payments Corporation of India’s United Payment Interface (UPI) transactions.

Google said it has partnered Swiggy, Dunzo, 24Seven, Fabhotels and HealthKart to post jobs on the platform in a bid to help riders, delivery personnel, retail executives, etc., find part-time and entry-level jobs. Caesar Sengupta, general manager, Payments and vice president, Next Billion Users at Google said the company plans to open the platform to everyone in the future.

The jobs platform is part of a bigger “Spot" platform that the company added to Google Pay. This allows third parties to build customized experiences inside Google Pay. Spots includes Spot Cards, which have both QR codes and NFC antennae on them to allow access to users. Tapping a Spot Card or scanning the code via an Android phone opens Google Pay and shows the customer the experience the merchant has created. For instance, MakeMyTrip’s Spot Cards will show its ticketing platform inside Google Pay. MakeMyTrip, Urban Clap, Eat.Fit and RedBus are among the first partners for this platform.

To allow for the use of debit and credit cards, Google Pay is using tokenization technology, which hides the card number from a merchant and enables instant sharing of a digital token to authenticate transactions.

Google Pay will face stiff competition from the likes of Paytm, the leader in mobile payments in India, which started its own e-commerce platform. As of June 2019, Paytm had an estimated 350 million registered users. Google, though, is taking a different route by integrating jobs with the app.

At the event, the California-based technology company also announced Google Research India—an AI-lab based out of Bengaluru. “We look forward to engaging with everything from academic institutions, to government to the industry and startup ecosystem in the country in the field of AI," said Jay Yagnik, vice president and Engineering Fellow, Google.

The AI lab will foster India’s AI community and contribute to the company’s global AI initiatives as well. Google didn’t say how big the lab will be, but said it will be a “large investment". The lab will be led by Manish Gupta, a renowned computer scientist and an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) fellow.

Further, in a bid to introduce Google Assistant to 2G and feature phone users, Google also announced a tie-up with Vodafone-Idea for a new phone line to call its AI assistant. The company also said its Google Assistant function will now support seven new local languages in India, bring the total to nine languages.

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