Nine takeaways from Google’s Caesar Sengupta at TechSparks 2020
Caesar Sengupta is the person at the helm of Google's efforts in payments and engaging the next billion internet users by building products and features like Google Pay, Files, Google Station, and more.
In a virtual fireside at TechSparks 2020 Caesar spoke to YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, shedding light on understanding India’s next 500 million internet users, and building from India for the world.
We have distilled nine key takeaways from his talk:
When you build for India, you build for the world
Contextualising how Indian users emerged as a key demographic while solving for the next billion internet users, Caesar said, “One of our biggest learnings from solving for the next billion users was that we thought we were solving for a set of countries. But we realised that we were actually solving for the next generation of users globally. India is leading with the next billion users, so when you build for India, you build for the world.”
Developing Asia is leading the next billion internet users
Caesar also spoke about how the future of the internet will be determined by people coming online today. As most Southeast Asian users who come online for the first time are from developing countries, with India topping the list, Google is mindful that their experience will be very different from that of users in developed countries like the US as it builds for this next generation of internet users.
A new kind of user is emerging
Even as Google conducted extensive research in engaging the next billion users, Caesar spoke about a different kind of user — unlike any other seen before — that’s beginning to emerge: the mobile-first and mobile-only user.
“There are huge differences in these new users from what we’d seen in traditional models from the West,” Caesar said, “Yet their aspirations and wants were the same as anyone else in the world. They want more visually. They want more relationships. They want more video. They want more in their vernacular. They want a hybrid language.”
Empower more women to use the internet
Caesar also spoke about the need to make the internet more inclusive for women. “When we embarked on making the internet more inclusive, we noticed that women tend to use less internet. In 2015, only one out of every 10 Internet users in rural India was a woman. We wanted to change that and bridge the online gender divide in rural India with the Internet Saathi programme,” he added.
As of April 2019, Google had more than 81,500 ‘Internet Saathis’ who have helped over 28 million women become active internet users across 289,000 villages.
Voice is enabling users to engage with technology in local languages
With over 60 percent of users in India interacting with voice assistants on smartphones in India, Caesar also added that voice is allowing users to engage with technology in their preferred local languages, and become a core part of the user’s life that goes beyond convenience.
Voice is emerging as the preferred way for people to use search
Hindi is second only to English as the most commonly used language with Google Assistant. Additionally, using voice technology is not just confined to assistants or smart devices in the home; it’s also shaping the way Indians interact with their smartphones. “Voice is emerging as the preferred way for people to use Search and browse YouTube,” Caesar said.
Focus on users, not competition
Contextualising the importance of users and solving for their needs, Caesar talked about focusing on the next 500 million users that need to come online — not just to use the internet for basic things, but to live a digital life.
“We don’t focus on the competition. We’re deeply focused on the user and what the next generation of users want. Users have a choice every second in their minds, and it’s important that they choose you,” he added.
Help new users with economy, education, and ecosystem
Google is keen on solving for the world’s digital digital inclusion needs and building a more inclusive internet, beyond COVID-19. To help users meet their immediate economic needs they plan to leverage easy-to-use tools as they did with a series of new additions on Google Pay to help consumers observe social distancing during COVID-19.
Google is also keen on increasing its focus on education by helping new users better understand online information and services, and adapt to deeper changes like the rise of online education. Finally, the company wants to keep building a supportive ecosystem around new users to prioritise inclusion.
Google’s efforts to bring about an inclusive internet also had a pleasantly unexpected payoff in the pandemic as individuals and businesses alike started using digital technologies more than ever before. “We helped get the right information out to the people by partnering with the Health Ministry. The ‘Donate’ button on Google Pay helped users make donations to their preferred charity or non-profit organisations. And, we helped empower local businesses with the ‘nearby stores’ feature,” Caesar said.
Google is betting on India’s digital future
“India is ready for the next stage of growth and we want to be a part of it,” said Caesar, speaking about the vision for Google Pay with India looking to achieve a billion transactions a day soon.
“We want to be ecosystem friendly. We want to deepen our focus on merchants and help local businesses digitise. We want to build bridges between users and the ecosystem, to help them do everything possible with their digital lives,” he added.
“It’s a bet on India’s future. It’s our belief that India will create incredible companies and innovation over the next five to 10 years. We want to show that we were deeply committed to this journey and we intend on speaking with action and not words,” Caesar said.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.
Edited by Teja Lele