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Google Teams With Banks to Launch Digital Lending for India

Saritha Rai
A woman uses her mobile phone outside the Ikea retail store in Hitech City on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. In a milestone that's been more than a decade in the making, India's first Ikea store opened today, bringing inexpensive Nordic-inspired furnishings and food to the worlds fastest-growing middle class. Photographer: Udit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg

Alphabet Inc’s Google is partnering with four Indian banks to grant consumer loans online, as the fight for a $1 trillion digital finance market intensifies .

The U.S. search giant is teaming with HDFC Bank Ltd., ICICI Bank Ltd., Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. and Federal Bank Ltd. to offer instant, pre-approved loans to customers “right within Google Pay in a matter of seconds,” it said in a statement.

From Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp to Jack Ma’s Ant Financial, internet giants are joining a race to provide financial services in the world’s fastest-growing mobile arena. Online lending is becoming the next frontier as mobile users look for small loans with minimal paperwork, served to them even without credit ratings as fintech companies use data and algorithms to determine risk.

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The Mountain View, California-based company re-branded its made-in-India Tez app, launched in September, as Google Pay -- the catch-all label for its payments services. The app’s users can take out a customized loan and get the money deposited directly into their bank account. It now intends to take its innovations and features to other markets.

“We’ve learned that when we build for India, we build for the world,” Caesar Sengupta, vice president of Google’s Next Billion Users initiative and Payments, said at the ‘Google for India’ event in New Delhi on Tuesday.

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Over 55 million people in over 300,000 towns and villages have downloaded Google’s payments app to pay for bus rides, split dinner bills with friends or pay repairmen, amounting to $30 billion in annual transactions, Google said. The overall market is forecast to expand to $1 trillion by 2023 from $200 billion currently, according to Credit Suisse Group AG.

The search giant also announced other initiatives including expanding its Google Station internet access program to 12,000 villages and cities across the southern state of Andhra Pradesh; more Indian language content through a publishing effort called Project Navlekha; and a new feature in Google Go that let users listen to websites read out in English and five Indian languages.

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Updates with details on market competition from the third paragraph.

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