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Carving Out Online Niche, Google Shopping Lands in India

First there was Walmart’s $16 billion majority stake in Flipkart. Then Amazon invested $583 million to cement a brick-and-mortar presence in India. Now, Google is closing out 2018 with the news that its Shopping service is online in India for its 400 million Internet users—i.e. potential customers.

Google announced via its country-specific blog that Indian consumers now can search for products in Hindi or English via Google Shopping and use the service to compare prices and browse offers from competing retailers. Because it’s common for someone in India to use an “entry-level phone” rather than the sophisticated devices most Americans own, Google created a progressive web app to mimic the smartphone experience and enable broad access to its Shopping feature.

People using Google in India can click a “shopping” tab when launching a Google search so that results exclusively contain retail products. They can track products, too, to stay on top of price drops and pull the trigger at the right time. Plus, Google displays a collection of the top products that people search for using its engine—a helpful starting point for folks just looking to browse.

The company updated its visual search app Google Lens with Style Search so that when users open the app and point their phone camera at a dress someone’s wearing, for example, they’ll see a group of stylistically similar frocks. Lens also recognizes text and then uses Google Translate to convert those words to another language—a useful feature in a country where 14 languages are commonly spoken.

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It’s no secret that the biggest companies influencing the retail and tech space have been jockeying for access to, if not leadership in, India, one of the so-called BRIC countries where millions of people rise out of poverty and into a growing consumer class each year. According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research, India’s middle class is expected to number 547 million by 2026, a sizeable jump from the 2016 tally of 265 million.

Amazon already has staked its claim in India, where 10 million people have signed up for Prime memberships, according to estimates from Entrackr, and the Asian nation is among its fastest-growing markets. Despite strong online growth, Amazon sought a foothold into brick-and-mortar retail, which drives significant business in an emerging economy where many still rely on cash and corner-store convenience. It planted its flag in Indian ground through a private-equity partnership with Samara Capital that affords access to more than 500 supermarkets and hypermarkets throughout the country.

But Walmart might have the lead, edging out interest from Amazon in acquiring a controlling stake in e-commerce darling Flipkart—whose founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal notably are alumni of Amazon.