US technology giant Google on Monday said it would invest worth $10 billion (Rs 75,000 crore) in India via the Google for India Digitisation Fund over the next five to seven years. Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google and Alphabet, said the funds would flow in through equity infusions and partnerships. “This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Pichai said at the virtual Google For India event held annually.
Google will deploy the investments to enable affordable access and information to Indian citizens in their own language. It will also build products and services that empower business to go digital besides leveraging technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in health, education and agriculture. Pichai believes India’s digital journey is far from complete. “There is still more work to do in order to make the internet affordable and useful for a billion Indians.
The technology major also intends to facilitate the use of more high quality, low-cost smartphones in India to improve internet access. Caesar Sengupta, GM & V-P (payments and next billion users), Google, said the GPay for business app is being used by more than three million merchants regularly in just eight months of its launch. Over 26 million small Indian businesses are now discoverable on Google search and maps driving connections with more than 150 million users every month, the company claims.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed data security and concerns around privacy with Pichai on a video conference. The PM said tech companies need to put in efforts to bridge the trust deficit, remarking “India is amongst the most open economies in the world”. Modi also expressed concern about cyber crimes and threats in the form of cyber attacks.
Enthused by the $10-billion investment, communications, electronics & IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at the virtual event he would be watching how the digital infrastructure was created to help start-ups realise their potential. Prasad hoped Google picks up a “good number” of cluster of villages of India and develops them as model digital villages of empowerment, skilling and healthcare, among others”. India’s app economy is growing very powerfully but we are not going to only download apps, it is also very important to upload apps made in India,” the minister observed at a time when a string of homegrown apps are hitting likes following a ban on Chinese app TikTok.
Google is also launching an edutainment series on Doordarshan with Prasar Bharati on how small businesses can adopt digital tools and adapt to the current situation, using examples of real life Indian businesses. The firm further announced a partnership with CBSE to train over one million teachers in 22,000 schools across India by the end of 2020. To support underserved low-income communities, Google announced a new Google.org grant of $1 million to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) as part of the Global Distance Learning Fund. With over 500 million internet users, India is an attractive market for global tech companies that have of late announced a series of investments. Earlier this year, the Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook partnered with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio in a $5.7-billion deal, its biggest buy since its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp. Amazon, which is already the market leader in Indian e-commerce along with Flipkart, in January, said it will invest an incremental $1 billion in the country taking its total commitments to $6 billion.