Google said on Monday that it plans to invest $10 billion in India in the next five to seven years as the search giant looks to help accelerate adoption of digital services in the key overseas market.
Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, today unveiled Google for India Digitization Fund through which the company will be making the investments in the country.
“We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” he said via video conference at the company’s annual event focused on India.
Investments will focus on four areas:
- First, enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, whether it’s Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi or any other
- Second, building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs
- Third, empowering businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation
- Fourth, leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture
India is a key overseas market for Google, where a range of its products and services including Search, YouTube, and Android have made inroads with much of the entire online population.
More than 500 million people in India, the world’s second most populous nation with 1.3 billion people, are online today and more than 450 million smartphones are in active usage in the country.
“There’s still more work to do in order to make the internet affordable and useful for a billion Indians…from improving voice input and computing for all of India’s languages, to inspiring and supporting a whole new generation of entrepreneurs,” said India-born Pichai.
Google, like every other American tech giant, though makes only a fraction of its revenue from the world’s largest internet market. But that does not appear to be a priority for any American or Chinese tech giant in India that are currently searching for their next hundreds of millions of users in developing markets.
Facebook, which rivals with Google and Amazon in India, made a $5.7 billion investment in Reliance Jio Platforms, the top telecom operator in the nation in April this year to digitize 60 million mom and pop stores in the country.
Reliance Jio Platforms, a four-year-old subsidiary of India’s most valued firm Reliance Industries, has raised more than $15.7 billion since the second half of April from 12 high-profile investors.
During his visit to India early this year, Jeff Bezos said Amazon plans to invest an additional $1 billion in India, totalling the company’s to-date commitment to $6.5 billion.
Google’s announcement today also comes at a time when India appears to be shutting its door for Chinese firms. New Delhi last month banned 59 apps and services developed by Chinese companies. Among those that have been banned include ByteDance’s Tencent, Alibaba Group’s UC Browser, and Tencent’s WeChat. Some industry players believe that this ban would help American tech giants further expand their tentacles across India as they would face less competition.
In April this year, India also amended its foreign direct investment policy to require all neighboring nations with which it shares a boundary to seek approval from New Delhi for their future deals in the country. For dozens of startups in India including unicorns Zomato, Swiggy, and Paytm that count Chinese investors as some of their biggest backers, New Delhi’s move is likely to result in additional difficulties in raising future capital.
Google has backed a handful of startups in India to date, including Bangalore-headquartered hyperlocal delivery service Dunzo. In May, Financial Times reported that Google was in talks with Vodafone Idea, the second biggest telecom operator in India, to acquire a 5% stake in the company.
Sanjay Gupta, the head of Google in India, said the company’s new $10 billion commitment to India today shapes the future of many of its products ands services in the country. “We are recommitting ourselves to partner deeply and support India in becoming a truly digital nation,” he said.
One of the ways Google, which began operations in India in 2004, has extended its reach in India is through partnerships with local smartphone vendors to produce low-cost handsets that receive timely and more frequent updates.
Without disclosing much details, Caesar Sengupta, GM & VP of Payments and Next Billion Users at Google, said today that the company will focus on “enabling more high-quality low-cost smartphones so that more people can access the internet to learn, grow and succeed.”
More to follow…