Google to offer loans to merchants in India

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Mumbai: Google is set to start offering loans to merchants in India through the Google Pay for Business app. The search giant said on Thursday that it is working with partner financial institutions to help small businesses in the country impacted due to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition to offering loans, Google announced a national rollout of ‘Nearby Stores’ Spot on Google Pay to help businesses get discovered by customers in their locality. The feature was launched earlier this year in cities including Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Pune.

Without providing any further details, Google said in a statement that it is bringing the ability to offer loans through the Google Pay for Business app in the coming future. The app already has over 30 lakh merchants, the company said.

It is important to point out that Google back in August 2018 added the option to avail pre-approved loans for end consumers through Google Pay by partnering with Federal Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, and others. The company, however, at that time didn’t make any similar revelations for merchants and small businesses using the payments platform.

Alongside the plans to offer merchant loans, Google in its fresh announcement mentioned the national rollout of the Nearby Stores Spot feature that was launched in April and expanded to 35 cities in May. The company has also allowed businesses to indicate their business hours as well as highlight whether social distancing measures are in place at their stores and essential items are in stock.

Further, Google Maps is getting promoted pins as a new feature through which businesses would be able to display their establishments as a square-shaped pin. These promoted pins are rolling out to smart campaign advertisers who have a Google My Business profile and will be fully available in the coming weeks. Google said that until the end of September, it wouldn’t charge businesses for any clicks, calls, or sales resulting from the promoted pins feature.

New Delhi ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. The move forced most businesses to suspend their operations. In recent weeks, the Indian government has rushed to relax some of its restrictions and many stores have resumed their businesses.

Last year Google launched the Spot feature in India that allows businesses to easily create their own branded commercial fronts that are accessible to customers through the Google Pay app.

SoftBank -backed Paytm, Walmart’s  PhonePe  and New Delhi-based BharatPe have in recent years onboarded millions of merchants and offer them a range of services, including loans.

Paytm,  which works with more than 16 million merchants, earlier this year launched a range of gadgets, including a device that displays QR check-out codes that comes with a calculator and USB charger, a jukebox that provides voice confirmations of transactions and services to streamline inventory management for merchants.

For some of these players, Google’s increasingly growing interest in targeting merchants means they will be facing off the search giant on two fronts. Earlier this month that Google Pay had about 75 million transacting users in India, more than any of its competitors. But despite the scale, Google Pay and most other payments services in India are struggling to find a business model for their services.

Facebook, Google’s global rival, has courted more than 1 million merchants in India on its WhatsApp’s business app. WhatsApp, which is the most popular app in India, is informally used by countless additional merchants in the country.

For merchants, the more players the merrier. Small businesses in India continue to struggle to secure working capital from financial institutions, such as banks.

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