July 14, 2020
The investment will be of special significance in the post-COVID-19 economy when a larger part of the population will move online for their essential activities
Google said that the investment will be achieved with a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments
The funding will support Indian businesses of all sizes and boost innovation of future-ready technologies while further empowering access to the Internet
Currently, over 26 million small and medium businesses are discoverable on Search and Maps, enabling connections with over 150 million users every month
Technology giant Google announced on July 13 that it would invest US$10 billion in augmenting India’s digital economy. The initiative, under the Google for India Digitization Fund, comes as part of the firm’s initiative to increase engagement in the young and growing economy. The investment will be of special significance in the post-COVID-19 economy when a larger part of the population will move online for their essential activities. The funding will support Indian businesses of all sizes and boost innovation of future-ready technologies. The fund will also be of key assistance for India’s micro, small and medium enterprises that have been digitising operations to secure businesses. The India Digitization Fund will aid the progress towards building Aatmanirbhar Bharat, or a self-reliant India.
On the day of the announcement, Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai interacted with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Mr. Pichai briefed the Prime Minister about the efforts undertaken by Google to help spread awareness and provide reliable information about COVID-19. He added that the strong step of lockdown initiated by the Prime Minister set up a very strong foundation of India’s battle against the pandemic. Owing to the Government of India’s proactive measures, the nation of 1.3 billion has reported only 1.2 million COVID-19 cases with a rapidly-improving recovery rate. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister appreciated Google’s role in battling misinformation and conveying information about precautions. He also talked about further leveraging technology in providing key services.
With the help of a range of policy, regulatory, administrative, and fiscal measures, India is adjusting to the new normal and adopting technology at a rapid pace. Indian farmers, for instance, are benefiting from technology with the application of next-gen tech such as Artificial Intelligence. To further build on such advancements, on the occasion, the Prime Minister explored the idea of virtual labs that can be used by students as well as farmers. Meanwhile, Mr. Pichai briefed the PM about new products and initiatives by Google in India. He mentioned about the launch of AI Research Lab in Bengaluru while highlighting the benefits of Google’s flood forecasting efforts. The Prime Minister was also briefed about Google’s investment fund for India and plans to develop strategic local partnerships.
PM Modi remarked that India is amongst the most open economies in the world. He spoke about the recent steps taken by the Government of India towards reforming the agriculture, industrial and services sectors, along with national campaigns to promote skilling and creation of new jobs. While talking on the importance of digitisation, the Prime Minister stressed on the issue of data security and concerns around privacy. He said that tech companies need to put in efforts to bridge the trust deficit. This is important as building confidence is vital to utilising the potential of India’s 1.2-billion-strong telecom market. The talks also touched upon technological solutions to expand the scope of online education, access to technology in the native language, progress in the area of digital payments, among others.
In a success of growing digitization in India, Mr. Pichia said that more than 2,500 Indian YouTube creators have each amassed over 1 million subscribers. The Internet has been helping improve lives in India’s villages with new trade opportunities as well as through healthcare, nutrition, skilling, and other essential mediums. One of the most prominent success stories has been the digitisation of small businesses. Till four years back, only around 33 per cent of small businesses in India had an online presence. Currently, more than 26 million small and medium businesses are discoverable on Search and Maps, enabling connections with more than 150 million users every month. Digital payments have empowered small businesses, bringing them into the formal economy, especially amid the lockdown.
Announcing the Google for India Digitization Fund, Mr. Pichai said that the progress has been made possible because of a strong foundation of digital connectivity in India. “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 world-class telecom infrastructure, have paved the way for new opportunities.,” Mr. Pichai added. Programmes like Internet Saathi have helped expand the access to Internet in villages, which helped more than 30 million women across India gain digital skills to improve their lives and their communities, Google said in a statement. Mr. Pichai said that building products for India first has helped us build better products for users everywhere.
Through the fund, Google will invest around US$10 billion into India over the next five to seven years. The company added that investment will be achieved through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure, and ecosystem investments. Doing so, the investments will focus on four areas: 1) Enabling affordable access to information for Indians in their languages; 2) Building new products and services that are relevant to India’s unique needs; 3) Empowering businesses with their digital transformation; 4) Leveraging technology and AI for societal good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture. These measures will be critical to building infrastructures and ecosystems that will withstand emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.