How #GoogleTez is failing to create the WeChat of India

Google Tez is a UPI based payment app for Android and Apple IOS launched by Google in India today; it has uncanny resemblances to China’s leading chat-based commerce app called WeChat.  

Google Tez is entering a crowded payment app market in India. From college incubated startups to billion dollars funded Paytm, everyone has a mobile payment solution and wants a piece of the projected $500 billion market by 2020 (BCG estimates). 

Tez means ‘fast’ in Hindi and Google Tez promises:

  • a speedy transaction
  • a clean simple look
  • a cluster of security filters collectively called ‘Tez Shield’

It also promises a b2b feature called ‘Tez for Business’ which allows merchants to get their business on the Tez app and interact directly with customers for transaction, offers and more. Some of the tech features like the audio, signal-based interface for cash transaction is noteworthy; all this said, here’s why Google Tez has a long way to go before it can attempt to do what WeChat did in China. 


Yawn. One more app: There are at least 20 leading payment app brands in India: from telecom operators to cab aggregators, banks to VC-funded independent startups, all have a payment solution and they all are an app. The most precious real estate in the digital era is the 7mb of space Tez is trying to conquer on users’ phones. Google seems to have cleverly addressed this by having OEMs like Lava and Panasonic to pre-install the Tez apps on their phones. But we all know how users react to bloatware; we remove them on day zero. In fact, as of 2016 even Apple (IOS 10 and above) let users remove pre-installed apps on iPhone, something you could not do since its launch in 2007. That’s how precious the real estate on customers’ mobiles phones are.

Entering the wallet wars with dud ammunition: With nearly two dozen payment and wallet apps, usually an average customer would be spoilt for choice, but now the wallet and payment market is over-subscribed. Last year’s demonetisation gave huge spikes in mobile wallet and digital payment usage but as of this month, there are data backed debates that cash transactions in India are nearing the pre-demonetisation levels. 

WeChat in China is everything from an apps store to an e-commerce store packed in one convenient app. That can be said about Flipkart’s PhonePe app or Paytm but Google Tez has neither ecommerce nor social media weight to throw around. Entering the “wallet wars” with an arsenal comprised of Hangouts, Duo, Allo, and Google+ is the equivalent of taking knifes and bayonets to a machine gun fight.

Don’t take my word for it? Try paying through Paytm or PhonePe when you shop on next time.


India is not China: Besides the expanding population of a billion plus, there’s practically nothing in common between India and China; from culture to government to people to internet usage, it is all starkly different. The language divide alone makes India a wild beast to conquer. Emulating WeChat is not as easy as ripping off its features. For example, ‘Tez for Business’ is identical to ‘WeChat Official Account’. Both let merchants set up a virtual store on the app and engage customers by offering promotions and discounts. In Google Tez’s current website, they show an example of a PVR being the merchant. Indians love to book tickets on BookMyShow after thoroughly searching for a deal or coupon on CouponDunia.


Before aping Tencent’s WeChat, which enjoy nearly a billion active users a month, Tez has a huge task of changing the habit of the 16% of India’s internet users to ‘use internet’ for doing non-entertainment related things. Google’s own YouTube Go is built for Offline first, mobile only India market. I wish these two teams at Google would talk to each other more often. 

Language and inclusion is a mess: On one hand, Google has been doing extensive work under its ‘Solve For India’ initiative to help the developer community build tech products for India or the ‘next billion users’ who are coming online for the first time; on the other hand, Tez their own product violates many fundamental advices they have been dolling out. 

In case of Tez, their built-for-India proposition is a corporate hogwash: the apathy towards the country which has 22 official languages is disturbing and disappointing. 

Tez app claims to work in 8 Indian languages but that’s just skin deep. Here’s why: firstly, the app has too many steps before a user can get started, in case a user seeks ‘Help’ while setting up, there’s only an English version available, which loads online and outside of the app; same goes for video tutorials as well. Ideally once a user sets a language, they must interface with the app in that language at every instance. 

If Google were to launch an app for Italy and the app nonchalantly opened a Help page in French, how well would that be received?

The Tez app on its first day experienced technical issues. Tez’s official handles tweeted “Higher than expected downloads of Tez so some users may experience issues. We’re working on a fix and we’ll update asap. Thx for patience!”


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