On July 13, the most valued brand in the world, Google, announced to invest INR 75,000 Cr (approximately USD 10 Billion) to accelerate India’s digitization over the next 5-7 years, with a new Google for India Digitization Fund. Yes, you heard it right. It’s an unprecedented push for India’s digital dreams and it also shows Google’s confidence in India’s future and its digital economy.
In 2015, Google outlined a vision to help the widest number of Indians have access to the Internet- and make it relevant and useful for everyone of them. Back then, connectivity, data and device affordability were major issues. Also it saw the beginning of more Indian-language users come online. Fast forward to today. In 2020, India’s digital landscape has completely transformed. Fundamental roadblocks like network infrastructure and affordable data plans are no longer as much of an impediment as before. In order to deepen its commitment for India’s next chapter as a digital economy, its investment will focus on four areas-
1.Enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, whether it’s Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi or any other.
India is the second largest online market in the world with over 560 million internet users and for the first time it has seen more internet users in rural India than in urban India. Active internet user base in rural India stood at 227 million, 10% more than urban India. Despite the large base of internet users, India still lag in terms of penetration. The internet penetration rate in the country stood at around 50% as compared to over 88% for the US and 61% for China.
Google with its Next Billion Users initiative – intended to level the playing field and make the internet useful for people coming online for the first time. Through Android, they worked to make high quality devices more affordable, enabled Indian language support both across G-Board and Google Assistant, and introduced offline capability in products like YouTube and Maps.
Also to understand the importance of regional language in India, in 2018, Google announced Project Navlekha- a forum to support publishers in India and help bring more Indian languages online. They definitely required an investment to expand the vernacular ecosystem in order to have better usability and content.
2. Building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs
To help with the digital transformation of a country as large and diverse as India, Google had to undergo certain fundamental changes to how they approached product development. With so many internet users hungry to do even more online, Google has been working to build new products and features specifically for India. Some of the India’s first products and features are-
a. A better entry-level smartphone experience with Android Oreo (Go edition)
b. Google Go, a new app from Google Search
c. Free up space on your phone with Files Go
d. The Google Assistant for the JioPhone
e. Two-wheeler mode in Google Maps comes to India first
I think it’s pretty clear what google is trying to do here.
3. Empowering businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation
Indian small businesses go digital. Today, 26 million SMBs are now discoverable on Search and Maps. Four years ago, only one-third of all small businesses in India had online presence. Small merchants are now more equipped to accept digital payments. Consider Google Pay, where the platform currently has over 3,000 online merchants and over 200,000 offline merchants. They use it to take payments, pay their suppliers, transfer money to employees and pay the odd electricity bill. Amid the covid-19 pandemic, Google has been backing small businesses and ensuring that they have resources and support they need. Google has launched Grow with Google Small business hub in India- a platform where businesses can access digital tools to maintain business continuity, find resources like quick help videos, and learn digital skills in both English and Hindi. Partnering with businesses will definitely help to grow India’s digital ecosystem and be one step closer to Prime Minister’s Digital India Vision.
4. Leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education and agriculture
Last year, Google announced the launch of Google Research India- AI research lab- to further their work in partnership with Indian academics and developers, tackling challenges in areas like healthcare, agriculture and more.
The opportunity for Google in India is enormous. As more customers use the internet, the business can make the best of the revenue by selling online advertisement services. So here you can see why the bet is worth it to Google.