Google’s decision to invest $10 billion in India over the next 5 to 7 years reflects an immense potential of the country’s digital economy. It is all the more significant that such a decision has been made during tough economic times in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The Centre should now reciprocate by improving ease of doing business in the digital space and ensuring a level-playing field. The announcement, made by India-born CEO of the global technology giant Sundar Pichai is bound to give a big push to India’s digitisation initiatives. The investments will focus on four areas: affordable access and information to every Indian in their own language, building new products and services that are relevant to India’s unique needs, empowering businesses as they embark on their digital transformation and leveraging technology and artificial intelligence for social good in areas like health, education and agriculture. This will be Google’s biggest commitment to a growth market and the investments will be made through equity, tie-ups and infrastructure commitments in data centres. The scale of investments is nearly double the $5.7-billion investment made by rival Facebook in the digital platform of India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries in April. At present, Google dominates search, video, maps and email in India. Nine of the 10 smartphones sold in India come with Google’s Android operating system. Google’s announcement also comes at a time when India appears to be shutting its door to Chinese firms. Last month, New Delhi had banned 59 mobile apps and services developed by Chinese companies.
With over 450 million active smartphone users, India is a key overseas market for Google. Still, a lot needs to be done to make the internet affordable and useful for the people, from improving voice input and computing for all of India’s languages to inspiring and supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs. Gaining a foothold in India has also become more crucial for American technology giants that have been largely shut out from doing business in China. Earlier this month, Google said it had abandoned plans to offer a new cloud service in the world’s largest internet market. Big technology companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are prohibited from doing business in China. And, potential hurdles for Chinese companies investing in India could provide better prospects for American giants to strengthen their position in a market which has the second-most internet users in the world. Google’s investment plan is in line with big tech’s bullish outlook on India. Between January 1, 2010, and July 13 this year, Google and its venture capital arms have invested in more than 900 companies globally. Among these, it has the maximum investments of $1.5 billion in Indonesian multi-service startup Gojek.
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