The funds will be deployed to accelerate Google’s efforts to spread connectivity and adopt digital technologies through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, operations, infrastructure and ecosystem investments, Pichai, who is also the chief executive of parent Alphabet Inc., said at the ‘Google for India’ virtual summit on Monday.
US internet giants, including Google, Facebook and Amazon.com Inc., are investing billions of dollars in India to lay the foundation for future growth in one of the world’s last major relatively untapped internet markets. With just half of India’s billion-plus people having access to the internet, it is an attractive growth market as companies prepare to tap the next 500 million people for services such as video streaming, search, cloud hosting and digital payments.
“India is setting global standards in digital payments. Building products for India first has helped us build better products,” Pichai said. “This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy.”
Google plans to spend the funds to enable affordable internet access to all Indians in their own language and build new products and services that are relevant to India’s unique needs. The company also aims to empower small- and medium-sized businesses in their digital transformation and leverage technology and artificial intelligence for social good, including digital literacy and support for rural economies.
Digital revolution presents an opportunity to build the future of India, said Sanjay Gupta, country manager and vice-president, Google India. “With 500 million active internet users in India, our aim is to get to the next 500 million users,” Gupta said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had an extremely fruitful interaction with 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,” Modi tweeted ahead of the Google event.
In response, Pichai said: “We are very optimistic about your vision for Digital India and excited to continue our work towards it.”
Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief executive and chief analyst, Greyhound Research, said the investments will help Google go deeper into India.
“It will also help them foray into cross-category businesses such as e-commerce and telcos in which they do not have a presence yet. It is likely that a lot of this will be used in tapping the MSME sector, especially the retail and kirana stores,” Gogia said. “Google is not present in all six categories of the digital platform matrix which we call 6Cs—connectivity, community, content, commerce, currency, capital—and this investment could be a strategy to enter these businesses.”
Minister of information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said he sees “immense scope” for Google through its application of artificial intelligence in agriculture, weather protection, healthcare and modern education.
Separately, Google said it is partnering with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to digitize classrooms and will be working with CBSE Skill Education and Training by 2020-end to allow nearly one million teachers in 22,000 schools in India “deliver blended learning that combines the classroom approach with online learning”.
The company will provide its software, including G Suite for Education, Google Classroom and YouTube, to allow such digitization. G Suite for Education includes Google’s usual tools, like Google Docs and Sheets. It also includes ways for teachers to give assignments to students and use Google Forms.
It will also provide a $1 million grant to the Kaivalya Education Foundation through the Global Distance Learning Fund to help teachers deliver virtual education to students.
Google is also tying up with public broadcaster Prasar Bharati for an edutainment series for small businesses.
Shreya Nandi contributed to the story.