Google is piloting its own ‘soundbox‘ in India for merchants to get audio-based payment alerts. Soundboxes are hardware used by merchants that emit sounds every time a mobile payment is made, which have become popular in India where point of sale activity can get busy and voice alerts from the soundbox help alert multitasking shopkeepers and assistants to a transaction going through.
Google, which is currently one of the mobile transaction leaders in India with Google Pay, is piloting a soundbox of its own in the country to alert sellers of confirmations for UPI payments. UPI payments, a mobile payment standard developed and now ubiquitous in India for instant payments and transfers between banks or two mobile users, or a customer and a merchant. With UPI payments, providers typically do not take any cut on UPI transactions, so soundboxes have emerged not just as a convenience for merchants, but as a monetizing tool for payments providers.
Sources indicate that Google has started distributing its white-labeled speakers, branded Soundpod by Google Pay, in a few markets across North India, including New Delhi, working initially with a limited group of shopkeepers. Google’s soundboxes come with a QR code on the front, linked to the business owner’s bank-registered phone number, which can be used to make any UPI-based payment. These Soundpods are being built by Amazon-backed ToneTag.
The hardware features a built-in speaker that announces payment confirmations in different languages. Like its competitors’ soundboxes, Google’s device also includes a small LCD panel that shows the payment amount, battery and network status, and manual controls. The soundbox is accompanied by a QR code of a merchant linked with their Google Pay for business account. Users can use any UPI-based app to make a payment by scanning the code. Typically, these soundboxes don’t support NFC payment as tap-and-pay is not a popular method for transactions in India. Plus, a lot of low-end smartphones don’t have integrated NFC hardware.
Google is distributing the speakers to select merchants without any additional cost. In some instances, Google Pay representatives have given merchants a time frame of some days to receive and set up the speakers at their registered location.
Google’s move into this piece of hardware is somewhat overdue. The search giant has been slogging it out in India’s crowded payments landscape for some time now, and while a soundbox may sound novel to people outside of India, in the country it has quickly become tablestakes in the mobile payments game. Google Pay competes directly with Paytm, Walmart-owned PhonePe and Tiger Global-backed BharatPe, all of which have already launched their own branded soundboxes with support for multiple languages.
The introduction of Google’s soundbox in India’s mobile payments industry could be a game-changer. With its reputation for innovation and vast resources, Google’s entry into the market could disrupt the competition and bring new levels of convenience and efficiency for merchants and consumers alike.
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