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Areo on Android: Google’s latest venture

By Prashansa Srivastava

Discreetly launching Areo, an app aggregating food delivery and home services, Google Inc. marked its entry into the already flourishing hyperlocal service space in India. Although free, the app is currently restricted to Android devices, with services operational only in Bangalore and Mumbai.

What is new?

By acting as an aggregator, Google will bear only customer acquisition costs and will basically act as the intermediary. Areo has signed up with partners like UrbanClap, Freshmenu, Box8 and Faasos and currently serves under five categories: food delivery, beauty services, home maintenance, repairs and installation and fitness. Interestingly, it includes categories which have recently been affected by a slowdown in funding and seen multiple shut downs.

Google will not deploy its own delivery executives or home services professionals. The partners will handle fulfilment of services, while Google will charge them a commission. Areo will be using the database of its service providers. For example, when you order a beautician, Areo opens the application program interface (API) of Urban Clap where you can see the type of service available, rating by other users on Urban Clap along with the rates. Once you have decided upon a service, you can mark details such as date and time on the same page. When the order is placed, you can see the order in your app cart and receive a confirmation call from the service provider. For food delivery, results are shown not by the name of the restaurant or shop but by the name of the food items. Payments can be made through debit or credit cards, online banking or cash on delivery. Instead of using its own payment solution Google has partnered with TimesofMoney’s online payments gateway DirecPay.

 Strengths and weaknesses

Areo is the latest player in the market vying to fulfil the voracious needs of the urban user. It brings multiple service providers under a common platform reducing the need to constantly shuffle between multiple apps. Apart from promises to offer a wider variety of services as compared to current players such as Zomato , it has the significant benefit of Google’s hefty search engine.

The search giant will unlock a larger audience by increasing the size of the market and it can help both itself and the service providers which sign up on Areo. At its current stage, Areo is not an end-to-end service providers but can pose a serious threat to services like Zomato, Swiggy and Amazon-backed Housejoy in the future. The aggregator app Tapzo (earlier Helpchat) will likely be affected as well.

Presently, Areo’s services are scattered and unavailable in some regions thereby offering no incentives for current users of partner apps to make the switch. It will be interesting to see how Google goes about establishing a foothold in a highly competitive market.


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