Last month, just as the Indian Premier League season was kicking into high gear, Google India released a rather interesting television commercial. It features a couple moving into a new house, and the lady desperate to catch up on some live cricket. But with the television in their apartment not functional just yet, the man tries a rather unusual route. He searches for sweet shops (or halwais) near his new house, on his phone and upon finding one, places an order for 30 samosas, which he offers his neighbours, just so his wife can watch the match. (Watch ad)

A screenshot of the Google India 'nearby' search advertisement

Any other internet company, say Hotstar, would have depicted how the couple could have watched the match through streaming. Not Google. It was conscious about the product it was selling: local search, which happens to be its latest initiative in India.

The advertisement wasn’t a standalone development. On 13 April, it launched an Android app called Areo (pronounced as A-ree-yo), on Play Store. Unusually enough, there was no blog post, no press conference, nothing. The subtlety looked rather deliberate.

Areo is an aggregation service, which features food and service companies. Presently, it is available only in two cities: Bengaluru and Mumbai. And the companies featured include FreshMenu, Faasos and Box8 (for food), and UrbanClap and Zimmber (for services).

Google Areo | Source: Play Store

Since its launch, the app has notched up over 100,000 downloads on Play Store (as of 24 May 2017).

It is the first time that Google has launched a specific, standalone app to tap the local search market in India. It fits its global ambitions to adapt itself to the way people search and discover things online. More so, in an increasingly mobile world. Be it local events, which it rolled out in the US or launching a separate search engine for jobs, which it predictably called Google for Jobs. In August 2015, it launched a similar feature in San Francisco, “that lets local businesses promote their services in a special box at the top of some search results”.

A Google India spokesperson told The Ken that Areo was merely an “experiment” and there was nothing more to add. That’s Google’s line on Areo. It is in sync with Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s approach to make India a laboratory for some of the company’s products. “Increasingly, we realise that we can try things in India—it’s a quick test market—if it works, we can take it outside,” he told The Economic Times in a January interview.

AUTHOR

Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

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