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Google’s voice search service in India

The fully automated voice search — using a voice algorithm the company has built locally — was unveiled recently as a pilot project in Hyderabad, reports K Raghu.

business Updated: Apr 17, 2008 02:19 IST
K Raghu

The creator of the world’s most used search engine, Google Inc, has launched in India its voice search service that allows phone users to seek information on neighbourhood stories, movie timings and restaurants, as it aims to tap those users who do not have access to the Internet for queries.

The fully automated voice search — using a voice algorithm the company has built locally — was unveiled recently as a pilot project in Hyderabad, and will provide users information on business listings either through a voice response or SMS (short messaging service) on their mobiles. “Voice enables us to reach non-Web users in local languages, while still leveraging our core strength in search,” said Roli Agarwal, spokesperson for Google in India.

“We are focusing on our users and innovating for the needs of the local market,” she added in a statement. Mint had reported on December 5 that Google was working on building an India-focused voice-based search solution aimed at non-Web users.

Last April, Google launched in the US a free telephone-based information service, popularly known as 411, for users to seek information on their landlines or mobile phones. Early this month, rival company Yahoo Inc. said it has introduced a new service that allows mobile users to access information on the Internet through a phone call.

In the past year, Google has been aggressive in building a database for local and text-based search on mobile phones in India. The company’s service in India is free, with access through a toll-free number, and callers also have an option to be connected directly to the local business. “This pilot will enable us to get real user feedback to improve the service before a full launch,” Google said.

Besides competition from firms such as Just Dial Pvt Ltd, where agents answer calls, Google has one Bangalore start-up it would face in its voice search business. In November, www.ubona.com, among the first Indian firms to provide voice-based search, launched its service for information about local restaurants. Ubona, which in Swahili means “I hear”, plans to add other services such as entertainment, auto, health and beauty for callers who speak English. Google earns revenue from advertisers who pay only when users click on the advertisements displayed on pages.

Details on how it would earn revenue from this service were not disclosed. “These services are open for both mobile and fixed-line users and, as of now, we have no plans to monetise this service right now,” Agarwal said.