Google launches India online payment app Tez

Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley speaks during the launch of the Google 'Tez' mobile app for digital payments in New Delhi, on Sept 18, 2017.
Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley speaks during the launch of the Google 'Tez' mobile app for digital payments in New Delhi, on Sept 18, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - US tech giant Google on Monday (Sept 18) rolled out its payment app called Tez, which means fast in Hindi, adding to the Indian government's push to increase digital transactions in a country where cash is still king.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched the payment app, calling it one of the simplest payment methods.

"Tez and others ...will make a major change in the digital payments landscape in India," the minister said. He added that Google CEO Sundar Pichai first pitched the idea for the app in January this year.

Google, which has introduced the app in seven Indian languages including Hindi and Tamil, has tied up with four domestic banks: the State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank. The app operates through the government's Unified Payment Interface (UPI) and is available for Android and the iPhone users.

UPI is a payment system that allows transfers between bank accounts and links phones to bank accounts.

Users can pay merchants or others straight from their bank accounts.

Indian consumers - a majority of whom remain distrustful of online payments or do not have access to them - have faced a flurry of online payment methods since the demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes Nov 8 last year.

The move, which the government said was aimed at curbing corruption and terror financing, led to a cash crunch with 86 per cent of the cash taken out of circulation before new high-value banknotes were printed.

Over the the past 10 months, many firms have introduced online payment methods, with the government encouraging people to use them.

Still, the online digital space, though small, remains a growing and increasingly competitive space. Google, which has been increasing its presence in India and earlier partnered with the government to provide Internet services at 100 Indian railway stations, will have to compete with Indian e-wallet firms like Paytm and digital payment apps by other banks and other private companies.

Google said that it believed in the potential of the Indian market.

"The switch from cash to digital is going to happen, It is a matter of time..." said Mr Caesar Sengupta, Google vice-president of The Next Billion Users division. "Tez has been made for India and will make payments as simple as cash," he said.