Just four days into the new year and the stage is set for things to come in 2017. With Google's top boss Sundar Pichai's arrival in India, we can be sure of a sustained global interest in the India story.
Pichai's visit in New Delhi for Google's Digital Unlocked event has generated enough buzz around what could possibly transpire and what Google's plans are vis-a-vis India, especially the India that resides in its small towns.
After having established their credentials in the metro cities, global corporations are out to woo middle India, as was also evident by Uber's Travis Kalanick's visit in December last year.
Pichai, however, started out not with the future but with the past. He said:
When I was a student in Chennai, one of the biggest problems we faced was getting information. Today, the scene is different; a student sitting in Kanyakumari can get as much information online as a professor at Stanford.
When Google started 18 years ago the focus was on providing information to every person in the world. Information and access, Sundar maintained, is power. And it is this very power that Google wants to equip India's SMBs with. Google believes that small businesses are the backbone of the Indian economy.
While today people living in the metros do not need to be sold on the power of the Internet and smartphone, Pichai believes that a large part of India is yet to understand its power. He said,
“Imagine, if every single small business owner were to leverage the power of internet and information. The economy would simply boom. Google aims to give those businesses that power.”
The company is working on its Digital Unlocked programme to help small businesses in
- Digital skill training, sessions that are FICCI and ISB certified. These provide owners with the information and knowledge of how mobile platforms, digital payments and e-commerce works.
- Helping businesses set up their web and mobile presence
- Take them online and handhold them on how online businesses work — helping with order forms, logistics and payments
But with the problem of connectivity and network, Google first launched YouTube Go, which allows people to watch videos with low network speeds. Google will also help small businesses run their website and mobile platform with zero or low connectivity.
A country with a population of 1.25 billion is what Google is setting its eyes on. Pichai explained,
“India shapes how we build products. If something works in India it will work globally.”
And one of the biggest drivers the company holds for this is small enterprises. “The internet is open to everyone and it's a shame that the majority of India isn't leveraging its power,” he added.
Over the past few months, Google has worked on Google Station that provides high-speed Wi-Fi to over 110 of the busiest railway stations in the country.
Pichai explained that this is just the beginning. The idea is to give India a stronger digital footprint and access where it is truly needed.
(Photos by Manoj Upadhyaya)
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