Google Launches Assistant-Like Helpline To Reach Non-Internet Users

The digitalisation and access to the internet has created a new growth story in India. Internet access in the rural areas has given impetus to the startup ecosystem in developing the solutions for India’s problems ranging from sanitation to commerce. Global giants have identified the market potential and are increasingly depending on the internet users in tier 2 and 3 markets to build their reach.

However, after taking a similar approach for the longest time, global tech giant Google has now created a whole new game plan. The company is now trying to reach the hundreds of millions of Indians who use 2G phones get the information they need, without requiring data or an internet connection.

During the Google for India event on Thursday (September 19), Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Next Billion Users Initiative and Payments said that the company is launching a phone line for the non-internet users.

The company said that it is launching Vodafone-Idea Phone Line—supported by the Google Assistant— which enables Vodafone-Idea users to call a single number free of charge (000 800 9191000), at any time, and ask for nearly everything. The questions can range from sports scores, traffic conditions and weather forecasts or get help with homework.

The company said that it is expanding the service to all English and Hindi speaking Vodafone-Idea customers across India. The company also said it tested the phone line service with thousands of users across Lucknow and Kanpur before making it available to the public.

Google also unveiled a new Google Assistant feature called interpreter mode that will serve as a real-time translator between two people speaking different languages. Google said the feature would support translation between English and Hindi and will roll out in the coming months

India has 1.16 Bn wireless or mobile telecom subscribers, out of a population of between 1.3 and 1.4 Bn, according to TRAI. However, out of this, there are nearly 500 Mn internet users, according to IAMAI.

Google Pay is the fulcrum of the new ecosystem that Google is bringing to life in India. Customers can order food using Google Assistant, while restaurants, retail businesses and kirana stores can fulfil online orders offline and in person. These businesses can also fill in any job requirements using the Google Jobs platform, enabled through Google Pay.

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