Google enters India’s digital payments market with mobile app called ‘Tez’


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Google has entered India’s digital payments scene — presently dominated by One97 Communications’ Paytm mobile wallet — with what the search giant calls a ‘made-for-India’ app named ‘Tez’ (meaning fast in Hindi).

Tez is built on India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) that allows round-the-clock instant money transfers between two bank accounts, using what are called virtual payments addresses. UPI, as it is popularly called, already has the backing of several large banks and a multitude of mobile payments apps from various participants, including one backed by the central government itself, called Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM), support the method.

Google’s entry will definitely add impetus to the government’s efforts to get people to shift to digital money, given that most of India’s 300 million or so smartphones run on Google’s Android operating system — therefore an environment that people are already familiar with. That said, Tez will work on other software too, such as iOS, which the country’s more affluent tend to prefer, via their Apple smartphones and devices.

Tez works with all of the 55 banks on UPI. “Our first-of-its-kind multiple payment service provider partnership with NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) and four top banks in India — Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank today and soon with the State Bank of India — means you can use Tez to transact with other UPI apps like BHIM or even checkout online using your Tez UPI ID,” Google said in a post on Monday.

One useful feature — as in Paytm and other mobile wallets such as Mobikwik — is the ability to transact between two users of the app without sharing details of bank accounts and so on. In its case, Google calls this feature ‘Cash Mode.’ Bring two phones near each other, hit pay or request, enter your UPI PIN and the payment goes instantly from one bank account to another, Google said in a press release on Monday. Google uses its own AQR (Audio QR) technology, “which is similar to QR codes but more convenient and more secure,” according to the company.

And unlike NFC — Near Field Communication, a feature that not all smartphones have — AQR will on almost any smartphone in India, whether Android or iOS, Google said.

For businesses, Google has also launched a Tez for business programme. At launch, on Monday, Google partnered with PVR Cinemas and redBus, which will offer the Google Tez option to consumers to make payments. Others are expected to join, including DishTV, Jet Airways and Domino’s in the coming weeks. Google is also working with payment aggregators such as BillDesk and PayU to bring more businesses onto the Tez platform.

The Tez app is available now for download on Google’s Play store, and Apple’s App Store. It works on the vast majority of India’s smartphones (with apps for both Android and iOS) and Android supports languages like English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu, with more coming soon, Google said.