India is emerging as an important crucible for the voice strategies of US tech giants as Google and Amazon roll out new products and services aimed at attracting brands and advertisers.

Earlier this year, a report from digital marketing agency iProspect, highlighted India as a leader in voice adoption, 82% of smartphone owners there having used voice-activated technology during the preceding six months, ahead of China (77%) and Indonesia (62%).

Before that, Google India had already reported that 28% of its search queries came through voice and was growing rapidly. In April it launched its Google Home smart speaker and a week ago made its Assistant available in Hindi.

Alexa, the comparable product from rival Amazon, has been available rather longer, giving the Seattle company a first-mover advantage: the number of skills on Alexa has doubled over the past year to 20,000, according to TechCircle, while the number of developers working on such skills has quadrupled.

“India is our second-largest market for skills after the US in 12 months,” said Dilip RS, country manager for Alexa Skills in India.

“Our first job is to educate brands on why they need to build for voice,” he explained. “Once they are convinced, our in-house team helps them build a good voice interface.”

Brands across a range of categories, from banking and insurance to lifestyle brands, are reported to be signing up, while one of Amazon’s tech partners, Agrahyah Technologies, has recently launched a voice agency.

But the voice-related future for brands may not lie in simple smart speakers so much as newer, voice-enabled smart screens, according to Nate Shurilla, APAC head of innovation and North Asia commerce at iProspect.

“Non-intrusive, tappable ads that are related to the voice query can enhance the experience without taking it over,” he told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

With the spread of such devices, ads will soon follow – “I wouldn't be surprised to see them within a few months’ to a year’s time.”

Metrics will also change, pointed out Vikas Mehta, CEO, PointNine Lintas, as usage becomes more important than numbers of users and interactions replace clicks.

Sourced from Campaigns Asia-Pacific, Google India, TechCircle, Economic Times, Afaqs!; additional content by WARC staff