Rise of Smart Speaker: How Amazon & Google Will Battle in India

Google and Amazon both have another round of competition to tackle in India. Smart speakers, although in their early phases in the country, seem to have a big future.

Amazon, with its Alexa voice assistant running on Echo range of devices, have been in the market since late year, while Google recently entered the fray with its Home Speakers.

We tried out both the products and this video shows where both the devices stand.

Amazon’s focus with Echo has been to build its voice ecosystem around services that are put into daily use. Apps like Uber, Zomato and Amazon Prime Music work with Echo speakers and for basic shopping purpose, you can rely on Amazon’s portfolio of products; grocery, stationary or anything else.

You can use Amazon’s Prime services with Echo by subscribing to its Rs 999 annual plan. 

Google, on the other hand, relies heavily on its existing bouquet of services like YouTube, Maps, Weather and News among others. For music, Google has tied up with Gaana and Saavn, and you’re required to pay separately to access their content.

Google will continue to invest and bring more content and localisation for Google Home in the coming months 

Google Home has 4 LED lights at the top. 

Rishi Chandra, head for product at Google, believes that with India being one of fastest growing markets for Google Assistant, it made sense to launch the Google Home now.

"The experience of Google Assistant is different from Alexa via Maps, Music, YouTube etc which Indians already using. Voice being a fairly prominent type of consumption encourages us to come with Google Home." - Rishi Chandra, Vice President – Home Product, Google 

Amazon’s early access to the market and developers have helped them offer more than 15,000 skills to the user. But Google has decided to launch the product first and build content for it gradually.

Amazon Echo Dot works in tandem with Alexa, the voice assistant. 

"We could have waited for content but we felt we have the right set of products supporting Home, something that’ll work in India. " - Rishi Chandra, Vice President - Home Product, Google Show Me the Value

Feature availability will play a big role for buyers, especially when they’re spending close to Rs 5,000 on these products. Amazon clearly has the upperhand to some extent but Google assures us they’re in this segment for the long-haul.

One of their big focus could be offering Google Assistant in Hindi on Google Home, expected by end of this year. This way, Google could target consumers beyond those living in the urban cities.

Google Assistant on Android localises in a new way for Indian users. 

Unlike Alexa, Google Assistant has been widely used by users in India on their smartphones. Google wants to make use of this early adoption, and convince them to evolve with Google Home. That’s easier than done, but Google seems confident.

Google’s early entry into the space hasn’t completely worked out to its advantage though. Amazon has developed its base of developers, giving them the power (and freedom) to create products that do the basic stuff but do it effectively. Varied Alexa-centric products are already available in the country.

Amazon brings Echo Spot to India. 

And developers have been impressed in the way Amazon has worked out its strategy for Alexa and Echo. 

This is where Google’s got to find its way, by educating the developers about their objective with Home.

"We have a team here, meeting Indian partners. Developers don’t know how to use voice. It is still early days, even Google is figuring it out. Most of the voice stuff is rough and over time, skills will get better." - Rishi Chandra, Vice President – Home Product, Google 

All said and done, it’s quite clear Google will bank on its pre-existing dependence in the country and Amazon is looking to break the digital monopoly and offer something wider to the consumer.

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