It’s been a tense week for those at the India division of payments giant Google Pay. The staff, spread across India and Singapore, are bracing for the cull as Google’s* parent Alphabet has decided decided Reuters Alphabet cuts 12,000 jobs after pandemic hiring spree Read more to part ways with 12,000 employees across the globe.
“We said our goodbyes to each other last Friday, in case we don’t see them again the coming week,” said a Google India executive.
Google Pay India’s fate remains uncertain despite enjoying an exalted status globally. And this unease among the staff is partly rooted in a recent shift in product strategy for Google Pay Brazil.
Teams in Singapore working on the Google Pay Brazil product have been reassigned to Google Pay India, leaving many to fear that redundancies may lead to layoffs in the 400-500-member India team, said the executive quoted above. They said Google Pay decided on a flat headcount for 2023, even before the retrenchment exercise.
Executives quoted in the story declined to be named as they prefer not to make public remarks about Google.
Google Pay India is one of the few payments teams globally with end-to-end autonomy—a distinction that sets it apart from other geographies.
However, Google Pay’s position within Alphabet is evolving from a potential vehicle to attract the “next billion users” through its status as the preferred payment app among Indians to one that must now show results.
This shift comes when India’s real-time digital payments system, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), is flourishing at a ~70% monthly growth rate, with Google Pay just about keeping pace. It lost the top spot—a position it enjoyed in 2019—to PhonePe (owned by American supermarket giant Walmart), and the distance between the two only grew since then.
The major factor weighing down Google Pay—rising payment failure rates—is its increased reliance on big Indian banks, which serve as its tech partners.
“This is a competitive market, and the ecosystem has had teething challenges, which resulted in some transaction-share drop from the peak for Google Pay,” wrote Ambarish Kenghe, vice president (product), Google Pay, in an emailed response to The Ken.
Now, being #2 in India’s digital payments market, too, is nothing to sneeze at. Nearly 7.8 billion monthly transactions and a 35% market share are significant numbers.
Even to retain its standing, Google Pay will have to invest more and fight multiple battles.
It needs to overhaul its banking tech, keep up with an ever growing number of UPI features even while dealing with a resource crunch, and at the same time, increase focus on merchant acquisition. All this while finding a way to make payments sustainable. Kenghe said monetisation had been a clear focus for Google Pay since its launch.