Google has always aimed to build for a billion people: Sundar Pichai on Google’s India plans


Sundar Pichai’s visit has so far been all about digitisation for India, Google Wifi, Internet Saathi, and every initiative that Google is taking to transform India and make it a truly digital economy.

“In the next five years, India will be a global player in the digital economy. The foundations are set, and there truly are some world class startups in the country,” said Sundar at IIT Kharagpur. However, he emphasised that the country has only 300 million smartphone users as compared to its population of 1.4 billion, which signals towards the fact that deeper problems need solving.

Sundar Pichai at IIT Kharagpur

Google, he said, is working on fixing problems that it sees obstructing India’s digital growth:

  1. Local languages: Google has started working on including more Indian languages. Sundar says that the advancements in computing have ensured progress in the way Google Translate works.
  2. Smartphone access for all people: While there are smartphones in the country, Sundar believes they can be available at cheaper rates. “We are looking to build entry-level smartphones just for India at $30,” he said.
  3. Connectivity: The main reason that Google has created WiFi across 110 railway stations in the country is to ensure that a large number of people can get good connectivity at any time.
  4. Internet Saathi: Google believes that the women in rural India are yet to get proper access and understanding of the smartphone. With Internet Saathi, several local women are getting trained in the use of internet and mobile phones.
  5. Digital Unlocked: Helping local businesses grow and thrive online.
  6. Google is also looking to digitise payments.

“Google has always desired to build products for a billion people. And India has a billion people,” said Sundar. However, while building for India, Google also believes that all these products can be replicated in different parts of the globe.

Rajan Anandan added that last year the team took YouTube offline, and now it is present in 10 countries. The idea is to build the product and replicate in similar geographies. “Indian companies need to build products for India and then look at markets like Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Vietnam,” Sundar said.

Apart from its focus on digitisation, 2017 for Google is also the year of AI and machine learning. Sundar believes that over the past 25 years, computing has transformed and grown much more, making AI and machine learning a better bet.

“Computing has reached a tipping point today, and the benefits of AI are already seen in healthcare, automotive, transport, and other industries. In 2017, we will focus on AI and machine learning research.”