On Monday, 18 September, Google, Alphabet Inc’s subsidiary, will make an entry into India’s fast growing and super competitive digital payment ecosystem, with a solution of its own. Google is launching a payment product which is likely called Google ‘Tez’ (which means fast in Hindi). Tez is largely fashioned on the company’s global product—Android Pay (earlier called Google Wallet).
How hot is India’s payment space? This hot: Google, tick. WhatsApp, tick. Truecaller, tick. Myriad wallet companies, tick. Flipkart, tick. Of course, banks, a whole lot of them, tick.
Google, according to sources, is expected to partner “several large private banks in India”. This, after it sought a special permission from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to partner with multiple banks, to enable its services through India’s digital payments network, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). It even entered into discussions with public sector banks. Google will use the real-time inter-bank payments system Unified Payments Interface (UPI), developed by the NPCI (read our related stories on UPI and NPCI). The latter all but confirmed Tez, with a senior official stating that “it had an Indian name”, and that it was to be launched “very soon”.
An application with the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks, a department of India’s commerce and industry ministry, says that Google Inc filed a wordmark for ‘Tez’ on 27 June 2017.
Besides its own UPI-based service, Google is expected to integrate third-party payment wallets such as Paytm* and MobiKwik among others on its platform. “Think of it as layers. The first one will be its own service: a wallet on the front-end, and UPI integration as a payment instrument. The second layer will be to simplify checkout through saved payment options—credit cards and wallets,” says a person aware of Google’s payment plans in India. He requested not to be named because he is not authorized to speak with the media.
Like Android Pay, Google’s Tez is expected to offer its users “an all-in-one, ubiquitous experience.” In other words, it will be platform agnostic. “It will be available both on the desktop, as a Chrome widget, and will be rolled out as an app on Google’s very own Play Store,” he adds. The UPI-based service will be integrated into other applications, including e-commerce, mobility, over-the-top apps, and Google’s own suite of apps—Play Music/Movies (for subscriptions) and Play Store (for paid downloads).
In India, Google’s entry into payments is a significant development. As things stand today, the country has not seen a single player, who can dominate all aspects of the payments ecosystem. There’s Paytm*, with 100 million wallet users, in the digital wallets space. Flipkart-owned PhonePe is now the largest UPI app.