Tech giant Google has been conducting its flagship annual event - Google for India - since 2015. This year, however, the event was markedly different since it was the first time the event was held online. Over the years, Google has demonstrated its strong commitment to the India market and at this year’s event, Sundar Pichai, Google and Alphabet CEO went ahead and pledged a boost of Rs 75,000 crore towards making the country truly a digital one. The investment will be spread across five to seven years as the search giant looks to help accelerate the adoption of digital services in India, a key overseas market. In the past, it was at these events that Google launched programmes such as free Wi-Fi at railway stations, Internet Saathi, Maps, and many others.
Speaking at the digital event via video conference, Pichai said, “Today, I am excited to announce the Google for India Digitization Fund. Through this effort, we will invest Rs 75,000 crore, or approximately $10 billion, into India over the next five to seven years. We’ll do this through a mixture of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure, and ecosystem investments.”
The investment will be largely focused on four specific areas:
- First, enabling affordable access and knowledge for each Indian in their own language
- Building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs
- Empowering businesses as they still start their digital transformation
- Leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture
More than 500 million people in India are online today and over 450 million smartphones are in active use within the country. Pichai, who is India-born, added, “It’s been incredible to see the rapid pace of change unfolding over my past few visits in India. From the excitement of young people using the latest apps and services, to the ways people are using smartphones to improve lives in rural villages. Google’s efforts in India have deepened our understanding of how technology can be helpful to different types of people. Building products for India first, has helped us build better products for users everywhere. But India’s own digital journey is far from complete. There’s still more work to do in order to make the Internet affordable and useful for a billion Indians, from improving voice input and computing for all of India’s languages, to inspiring and supporting a whole new generation of entrepreneurs.”
A NEW GENERATION OF INDIAN INNOVATION
Pichai added that this mission is deeply personal to him, and shared memories of growing up in the era of Doordarshan in India. “Growing up, technology provided a window to a world outside my own. It also brought us closer together as a family. Every evening we were drawn to the television by Doordarshan’s special rendition of ‘Saare Jahan Se Achha.’ I tried to explain this to my colleagues the other day, but I eventually gave up and just showed it to them on YouTube,” he said.
Pichai also gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for Digital India, which he said has laid the foundation for the country’s digital connectivity. Low-cost smartphones combined with affordable data, and a world-class telecom infrastructure, have paved the way for new opportunities, he added.
TOWARDS A TRULY DIGITAL NATION
Speaking at the Google for India event, Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and Vice President, Google India said, “India has always been a strategic and important focus for Google. Over the last several years, under the ‘Next Billion Users’ initiative, Google has solved problems for India by understanding the challenges of India better and building products and solutions that can help Indians get more out of the Internet. Today, we are recommitting ourselves to partner deeply and support India in becoming a truly digital nation by making the Internet helpful for a billion Indians and empowering India to become a leading digital economy.”
Google also announced new initiatives as part of its ongoing efforts towards the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Talking about the pandemic’s impact on small businesses and creating economic opportunity, Caesar Sengupta, GM & VP of Payments and Next Billion Users, Google, said, “Now more than ever, to survive and grow, every Indian business must be a digital business. And we are investing in helping Indian businesses go digital and helping Indian workers learn, grow and find better jobs.”
Sengupta also announced a new initiative with Prasar Bharati, launching an edutainment series on Doordarshan on how small businesses can adopt digital tools and adapt to the current situation, using examples of real life Indian businesses. Talking about the Spot Platform on Google Pay, Sengupta explained how the Google Pay Nearby Stores Spot which was introduced in March this year to improve offline merchant discoverability and to help people find shops near them to see what essential food items are in stock, has been used by more than two million users. To support people who are looking for work, he shared that the Job Spot on Google Pay now allows for remote interviews and remote work listings so that people who are unemployed can secure employment and income more quickly during the pandemic.
HELPING EDUCATORS GO ONLINE
Focusing on education, and helping educators to use digital tools to deliver classroom learning both in schools and through the Internet, Sapna Chadha, Senior Country Marketing Director, Southeast Asia & India, Google, announced a partnership with CBSE to train over 1 million teachers in 22,000 schools across India by the end of 2020, to deliver blended learning that combines the classroom approach with online learning, using free tools like G Suite for Education, Google Classroom, YouTube and more. To support underserved low-income communities, she also announced a new Google.org grant of $1 million to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) as part of the Global Distance Learning Fund. Using these funds, the KEF will work with the Central Square Foundation and TeacherApp to train 7,00,000 teachers to deliver virtual education for students so that they can continue learning at home over mass media such as TV and Radio, wherever smartphones or Internet access are not available.
At the event, Google also shared updates on the work it has been doing since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in India. In the last two months, Google has seen over two billion searches on COVID-19, across different languages on Google platforms, and it has made available credible and authoritative information on COVID-19 across all its key products in multiple Indian languages.
SUPPORT FOR START-UPS
Pichai expressed his support for entrepreneurs across the world and in India too, adding that they have made investments in support of start-ups through Google and through Alphabet’s independent growth fund, CapitalG. Here’s a look at Google’s investments in
start-ups across India:
Direct Google Investments & Acquisitions
- Dunzo – delivery app
- Fynd - e-commerce fashion shopping platform
- Halli Labs (Acqui-hire) - deep learning and machine learning systems development company
- Where Is My Train (Acquisition) - helps users access live train status and up-to-date schedules for Indian Railway trains
- Aye Finance - provides business loans to micro and small businesses
- Cardekho – Enables car buyers and sellers to connect with each other
- CommonFloor (Now acquired by Quikr) – enables users to buy, sell, and rent residential properties online
- Cuemath – an after-school math excellence programme for children from KG to 8th standard
- Freshworks – customer support platform that provides multi-channel support via phone, email, chat, website, and social networks.
- Practo – connects healthcare providers with end users