Google Assistant, the digital assistant from the global search giant, is available to users through their smartphones, laptops, and smart speakers. Earlier this year, the company partnered with KaiOS to bring Assistant to some feature phones with internet access.
India continues to be one of the largest markets for Google. In fact, Hindi is now the second most used language on Google Assistant after English. Data connectivity and smartphone penetration in India, however, still remains comparatively low. In a bid to attract the next billion users onto the Google Assistant platform.
Now to tap that market Google is going a step further: Bringing its virtual assistant to people who have the most basic cellphone with no internet access. It’s starting this program in India.
Announced at the annual Google for India conference, the company has tied up with local operator, Vodafone Idea, to allow users to dial-in to a toll-free number to access Google Assistant. All you have to do is call 000-800-9191-000 to access Assistant in English or Hindi, with additional languages to follow over time.
Even as there are more than 500 million users with access to internet and about 450 million with smartphones in India, more than half of the nation’s 1.3 billion people remains unconnected.
India has emerged as one of the last great growth markets for Silicon Valley companies that are looking to find their next billion users worldwide. But to reach these users, companies are required to put in some extra work: Build and customize services to address the local challenges.
On Wednesday, Amazon said its digital assistant service Alexa now understands and speaks Hindi. Only 10% of India’s 1.3 billion people speak English. There are over half a billion people in India who speak Hindi, however. Google said today that Hindi had already become the second most popular language for its digital assistant service.
There are a few limitations to the service. Since you are dialling in, the Assistant is not tied-in to your Google account, and any actions that require access to or data from the account will not function. However, if you are looking for search results, local store listings, weather data or news, Google Assistant will serve it up in a pinch.
After a trial run in the Indian cities of Lucknow and Kanpur, the Google Assistant phone call service is now available across the country. Between Android Go, getting Google Assistant on Kai OS and now, the phone-line service, Google appears to be making all the right moves to migrate India’s burgeoning internet-connected audience to their platform. The Google Assistant phone call functionality, in particular, is a brilliant move to bring smart connectivity to areas with limited internet access or to those who haven’t yet migrated to smartphones.