Google Assistant Has Almost Ten Times More Voice Apps in Hindi than Alexa Despite Trailing Overall in the Country When Counting Skills in English

  • There were 7,554 Google Actions in Hindi for the Assistant compared to just 768 Alexa skills in January 2020 which reflects a significant advantage for Google over Amazon is building scale behind its usage numbers in India
  • Amazon does list nearly 33,000 Alexa skills for India but almost all of them are in English in a country where Hindi speakers outnumber English speakers by more than five-to-one
  • Nearly 4,500 of the Google Actions in Hindi are also in English and localized for use in India

Google Assistant may have fewer voice apps in India than Alexa if you strictly look at the topline figure of Amazon’s skills for the country. However, the 32,879 Alexa skills available in the skill store for India are almost entirely in English. Voicebot research found just 768 in Hindi despite Amazon’s announcement in September that over 500 were available in the language at launch. Google has nearly ten times that figure of Actions in Hindi with 7,554 and it added 2,613 in the last two months of 2019. Amazon may be doing well in assembling content for Indians that prefer to use English, but appears to be well behind in the most widely spoken language in the country.

Google’s Indian Advantages

Google has some advantages in India that likely are contributing to its early success in Hindi. First, Google Assistant was speaking Hindi on Android as early as January 2018, about 20 months before Alexa and introduced the ability to build voice apps in the language six months sooner. Actions on Google has also rolled out eight Indic languages.

Second, Google has a program focused on the next billion internet users. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai even said while he was leading Google that he wanted to, “get these next billion Indians online.” You cannot achieve that goal with English-only or even by taking an English-first approach. The big numbers require a focus on Hindi. To that end, Google has also introduced the Assistant on feature phones and even lets you access it from the telephone. Austin Chang, director of product management for Google Assistant also stressed that no matter the device, “It is the same Google Assistant as on Pixel.” This provides a much larger user base for developers to serve.

Bahubali Shete, the founder of KloveChef, also had a few other data points that he sees as important. “In India, you throw a stone and it will hit at least one Google developer. They are Google Action developers mostly because they are originally Android developers,” he said. “India has nearly 500 million Android users as compared to one million Alexa users [and] almost every Uber and OLA Cab driver in India uses Google Assistant on his phone while driving the cab. None of them use Alexa.”

English Biases Toward Higher Income, Hindi Toward Scale

The 2011 India Census appears to still be the authority on the total number of speakers by language in the country. While some things may have changed in the intervening nine years, including the total population, the differences are so stark that the ratios are likely fairly similar. Speakers of Hindi as the first language exceeded 500 million compared to just 250,000 for English as of the most recent census. Many others speak these as second or third languages so the total speakers look to be about 700 million for Hindi and nearly 130 million for English.

A 2019 study by Oxford University suggests the proportion of English speakers may have actually fallen to 6% of the population from over 10% in the 2011 census. However, that study also confirmed that English-speakers are more likely to have higher incomes and higher levels of education. That may fit better with Amazon’s initial target demographic for online shopping. However, if it wants to grow into other population segments, wide support for Hindi will be critical as will presence on feature phones. Google, it should be said, is not eschewing higher income groups. It is simply going after every segment from the beginning.

Google Actions in India

Google segments its Actions differently than Alexa does for its skills. Whereas Amazon has Alexa skill stores for the countries it operates in, Google distinguishes based on language. Data provided by Emiel Langeberg, voice designer, and researcher at Kandoor.nl, shows that there are 18,826 English Google Assistant Actions available in India and 7,554 Hindi Actions. Of those, 4,496 show up in versions for both English and Hindi. In theory, all of those English Google Actions are available for use in India, but many of them are not localized to the country. It is safe to say, the more than four thousand that are both in English and Hindi are localized. Few of the others are.

Amazon also allows Alexa skills to be published in English in India without localization. We suspect many are localized but similar to Google Actions, the majority are probably not given that it is easy for Alexa developers to publish in multiple countries simultaneously. Regardless, Google has an advantage in India over Amazon in Hindi which appears to be growing. It will be interesting to see how Amazon responds.

Apple also plans to begin selling its HomePod smart speaker this year in India. It will reportedly support Indian English, and the hybrid Hinglish, but not Hindi. That means the English-language smart speaker offerings will become more competitive, particularly among upper-income consumer segments. This will likely give Google even more time to extend its lead among consumers that prefer to speak Hindi when interacting with their voice assistantw.

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