Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and Alphabet, saw a meteoric rise from being a small-town boy in Madurai to studying at the premier IIT Kharagpur to becoming the Commander-in-Chief of one of the tech giants in the world. With his roots in India, Pichai is well-versed with the challenges that the country faces in terms of digitisation and technological advancement. He realised that technology was a window to the outside world.
In a press release on Monday, the Google CEO recalled how he had to wait for technology to arrive from somewhere else. he lauded how a generation of Indians now doesn’t need to wait for new innovations as they are happening in the country itself. He stated, “It’s been incredible to see the rapid pace of change unfolding over my past few visits. 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.”
Pichai informed that Google will invest $10 billion (₹75000 crores) in India over a period of 5-7 years. As per the press release, the investment will be a combination of partnerships, operational, infrastructure, ecosystem investments, and equity investments. The investment will be made in key areas that include building products that cater to India’s unique needs, ensuring easy and affordable access to information in regional languages, empowering businesses in bringing about digital transformation, leveraging technology, and artificial intelligence in education, agriculture, and health.
India-specific Google innovation
Google highlighted the success of Google apps that were designed, keeping India’s digital industry in mind. Sundar Pichai emphasised how GPay had been successful in providing a fast, contactless payment tool that has empowered India through the adoption of BHIM-UPI. He reiterated how Artificial Intelligence-powered app, Read Along, was first launched in India and then was made available in 180 countries to help children read in 9 languages.
Emphasing the need for disaster management, the Google CEO pointed out how the AI-powered forecasting system was developed to keep people safe during the monsoon season in India. Pichai also talked about spreading Internet awareness in rural areas through a designated program, Internet Saathi, that has helped over 30 million women learn digital skills and improve their communities. He also recollected how the Google search engine was focused on providing information on cricket scores or Bollywood stars in 2004 but has evolved in drastic ways over time. He also added that Google had invested in Indian businesses through its ‘growth equity investment fund’ named CapitalG.
Digitisation of small businesses in India
The press release highlighted that only 1/3rd of small businesses in the country operated online but today around 26 million small and medium businesses can be discovered on the Google search engine and Google Maps. Pichai stated that with more and more small businesses having access to digital payments, they have become a part of the ‘formal economy’. As such, access to credit has improved for such business owners. The Google CEO emphasised how contactless, digital payment systems have helped families procure goods and services amidst the lockdown that was imposed in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Sundar Pichai thanks PM Modi
In the press release, Sundar Pichai thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his push for digitisation in India. He applauded how PM Modi laid the ‘strong foundation of digital connectivity’ in the country. He added how the vision for ‘Digital india’ helped getting a billion Indians to use online services. Pichai also pointed out that the digital revolution in India would not have been possible with world-class telecom infrastructure, affordable internet and inexpensive smartphones.
The Google CEO highlighted that the tech giant will work with the Indian government and the home grown businesses, irrespective of their size, to realise the shared vision of a ‘Digital India’. Times of challenge can lead to incredible moments of innovation. Our goal is to ensure India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation, but leads it. Working together we can ensure that our best days are still ahead,” he conceded.