NEW DELHI: Google and Amazon are preparing to go head to head as they look to develop a market in India for voice-controlled smart speakers, according to local media buyers.

Between them, the two are expected to spend around Rs60 crore ($10m) over the next year on advertising their products: Amazon Echo launched in India in October last year, Google Home last week..

“Both Google and Amazon have deep pockets. They will spend disproportionately to create the voice assistant category, which is still nascent in India,” said Navin Khemka, managing partner, Wavemaker India, a GroupM-owned media agency.

Both tech giants have adapted their products to meet the needs of Indian consumers, training them to understand Indian accents, for example, and partnering with local content providers for services like news, streaming music, booking cabs and ordering food.

The level of linguistic understanding the speakers display is likely to be a crucial factor in the battle that is looming and here Google has an advantage in that its Google Assistant, the virtual personal assistant (VPA) which powers Google Home and is widely used on Android phones, is already available in Hindi and English.

Khemka observed that the early adopters of voice-controlled speakers will be younger consumers who already use voice assistants on phones – “They are more likely to buy the speakers that will be adopted by others in a household” – and these are the focus of Google’s current advertising, which aims to further develop that habit.

Amazon, meanwhile, has expanded the natural language understanding of its VPA Alexa so that she can “fully comprehend context and intent, even if the sentences include Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam or Punjabi proper nouns”, according to Ravi Desai, director, mass and brand marketing, Amazon India.

Amazon’s advertising also differs from Google’s approach in that it showcases the product as a device for all the family.

“The team’s focus was to highlight Echo as a family device with varied use cases relevant to each and every member of the family,” Desai explained.

“Our target groups for Echo devices are families that are technology-friendly and willing to spend for convenience.”

Sourced from Mint; additional content by WARC staff