In a major short in the arm to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India campaign, global tech major Google today announced Google for India Digitization Fund, through which it pledged to invest Rs 75,000 crore, or approximately $10 billion, into India over the next 5-7 years. As it happens, Google going big on India comes in contradistinction to its shrinking efforts in China.
Announcing the fund, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said "We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy.
Speaking (virtually) at the "Google for India" event, Sundar Pichai said "all this progress was only possible because of a strong foundation of digital connectivity. Thanks to Prime Minister Modi’s vision for Digital India, the country has made huge progress in getting a billion Indians online. Low-cost smartphones combined with affordable data, and a world-class telecom infrastructure, have paved the way for new opportunities."
He added: "As we make these investments, we look forward to working alongside Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government, as well as Indian businesses of all sizes to realize our shared vision for a Digital India."
Google's announcement followed his (online) meeting with Narendra Modi, who tweeted: "This morning, had an extremely fruitful interaction with Sundar Pichai. We spoke on a wide range of subjects, particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of India’s farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs."
I was delighted to know more about the efforts of @Google in several sectors, be it in education, learning, @_DigitalIndia, furthering digital payments and more. @sundarpichaiJuly 13, 2020
- Google Pixel 4a release date, price, specs, news and leaks
- Google CEO calls China search engine "an experiment"
- Eric Schmidt says Huawei engaged in "unacceptable practices"
Focus on four areas
Saying that Google’s efforts in India have deepened their understanding of how technology can be helpful to all different types of people, Sundar Pichai said building products for India first has helped us build better products for users everywhere.
Google's investments will focus on four areas important to India’s digitization:
First, enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, whether it’s Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi or any other.
Second, building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs.
Third, empowering businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation.
Fourth, leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture.
Today at #GoogleForIndia we announced a new $10B digitization fund to help accelerate India’s digital economy. We’re proud to support PM @narendramodi’s vision for Digital India - many thanks to Minister @rsprasad & Minister @DrRPNishank for joining us. https://t.co/H0EUFYSD1qJuly 13, 2020
Small is Big
Sundar Pichai was excited about how small businesses in India were making it big, as it were, and how Google is able to help them grow.
"Just four years ago, only one-third of all small businesses in India had an online presence. Today, 26 million SMBs are now discoverable on Search and Maps, driving connections with more than 150 million users every month. What’s more, small merchants across the country are now equipped to accept digital payments. This has made it possible for more small businesses to become part of the formal economy, and it improves their access to credit," he said.
Pichai's personal connect
Sundar Pichai, who is an Indian, and did his engineering at IIT, Kharagpur, was able to see India and its development from a personal viewpoint.
And he stated as much.
"This mission is deeply personal to me," he said. "When I was young, every new piece of technology brought new opportunities to learn and grow. But I always had to wait for it to arrive from someplace else. Today, people in India no longer have to wait for technology to come to you. A whole new generation of technologies are happening in India first."
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, to the more than 2,500 Indian YouTube creators who each have over a million subscribers, Sundar Pichai pointed out.
It was revealed during the meeting that Android and its related work alone has been able to generate 1.6 million jobs in India.
Sign up to receive daily breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis, deals and more from the world of tech.
Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.