Google for India : CEO explains why Google is shifting focus on India

Google’s coming of age — the company hit its 18th year of incorporation this month, and is currently shifting focus to India. Google has made a series of announcements that make one thing very clear: it plans to take India’s Internet by storm. Google CEO Sundar Pichai who himself happens to be Indian wrote a piece yesterday in India Times discussing the importance of India for Google and the international tech community.

The company is no stranger to working in India, with its railroad station Wi-Fi project already proving to be a notable success. But yesterday it announced a series of new products and projects squarely aimed at the Indian market, signaling its intent to tap a market of 1.25 billion people where only 200 or 250 million are currently online.

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India is Pichai’s home, and he noted some of the steps Google is taking to fulfill its goal of bringing more people online. The biggest one was establishing free public Wi-Fi at Indian railway stations — the search giant has established it at 50 stations, with 50 more to come by the end of the year. The current 50 bring more than 3 million people online every month. Everyday 3 Indians are coming online for the very first time.

Pichai says Google has also brought its internet companion training program to 10 Indian states, which helps women get online to empower change. The CEO says India has inspired several features in some of its apps, like offline mode for Maps, YouTube Smart Offline, and more. At the second Google for India event yesterday, Google announced more such features which will be exclusive to India for a while before they make their way to other parts of the world.

The best innovations come from the most surprising places – Sundar Pichai

“For example, Chetna from Alwar district in Rajasthan, learnt about mustard farming techniques at the Internet Saathi programme to improve her earnings and is now a source of inspiration in her community,” he writes.

Pichai also cites one Advay Ramesh, who was a 14-year-old boy living in Chennai. Ramesh was aware that the local fishermen were in a constant struggle with a bevy of complicated maritime borders. Many fishermen had accidentally run afoul of the law, and some had even been detained, all for trespassing into international waters. Even as a 14 year old boy Ramesh saw an opportunity in the problem. Inspired by  a technology like Google Maps, Ramesh developed a custom tablet that would warn fishermen when they were nearing those tricky borders.

There are over a billion people in the country, and more than 800 million of them live in rural areas with limited access to the internet — less than a third of the population is online at all. Imagine when this next billion comes online, and is provided with necessary tools to innovate.

But you don’t have to be Indian, or even especially interested in Google’s business fortunes, to care about the company’s announcements yesterday. A push in India doesn’t mean Google is ignoring the rest of the world — in fact, Pichai says it’s making Google better everywhere.

“Over the last year, we have noticed something important about improving our products in India: it makes them better for everyone around the world,” Pichai writes. “In an increasingly mobile-first world, India gives us early insights into the future of the internet. Moreover, we learned the issues Indians may have with connectivity, and data constraints can be universal. We dreamed up Maps Offline for India, but people in the United States and Europe are finding it just as useful. Simply put, solving for India is inspiring new Google innovations.”

But make no mistake: India is a huge opportunity for Google. If Google can be the one to provide the services that new Internet users adopt, it will be able to recoup its investments using its favorite trick of all—advertising. Facebook has already tried as much in India with its Free Basics scheme, but that was banned because it breached the principles of net neutrality. Its easier for Google, because when you provide free Internet to people, guess where they will go, Google. Google is a name that has become synonymous to the Internet to many. Facebook did not have that luxury, it had to ensure people only went to Facebook and its services and thus digging the grave for its Free Basics scheme.

What’s your take on Pichai’s views on India and innovation?

Source : Economic Times

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