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Addressed as a digitisation push, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, earlier this week, announced the company’s interest to invest approximately ₹75,000 crores ($10 billion) in India over the next five to seven years.
According to the announcement made by the tech giant, the fund will be aimed at pushing digital literacy to Indian citizens, omitting the language barrier, building more products for the Indian market along with empowering the local businesses and leveraging AI for the betterment of the society.
In fact, Pichai wrote in the company’s recent blog post concerning the initiatives of ‘Google for India’, and how this initiative is a reflection of the company’s confidence in the future of India’s digital economy.
India indeed needs a digital push to make the internet affordable for billions of its citizens. However, can this initiative by Alphabet Inc-owned Google be a step towards strengthening its position in the fifth-largest economy and stay ahead of the game?
Google Investment Will Help The Company To Build Their Position
As a developing country with 1.3 billion people, India is perhaps the last untapped market for digital push, and thus Pichai expects millions more to newly join the internet revolution in the coming years. This would provide a massive opportunity for Google to expand its user base in India.
As a matter of fact, the recent $6 billion investment on Jio platforms by Google’s rival Facebook, highlights the expanding data usage by Indian users and the potential of the evolving market. A lot of this could be attributed to Jio’s cheap data plans and 4G networks that have drastically increased the data consumption by Indian users, which is expected to grow 11GB a month — thus making India one of the booming markets in Southeast Asia to tap, considering China has long banned US tech giants from operating in the country.
Besides Facebook and Google, Amazon has also made a plunge into this evolving market, by investing a total of $6 billion, since last year, to digitise small and medium businesses of the country. With India’s rapid adoption of digital technologies, Apple has also positioned itself with Foxconn by investing $1 billion for factory expansion. This showcases how India has been a significant focus among US tech giants to expand their business, and therefore this move by Google cannot come at a better time for the company to join the battle.
On the other hand, India has always been a thriving market for Google with its payment platform — Google Pay, which has hit 67 million monthly active users in India in 2019, Android and YouTube, which has 265 million monthly active users in India. This, along with, increasing demand for AI and other newer technologies by Indian industries and the recent ban of 59 Chinese apps have correspondingly paved the way for Google’s expansion in the country.
While earlier this year, Google stated how the company got affected by the global pandemic and consequently will be slow in hiring for the rest of the year, the recent digging up of revenue growth by the rest of the tech companies must have motivated Google also to get their share of this flourishing market.
In fact, it is also reported that Google is in advanced talks to have a $4 billion stake in Jio, joining its rival Facebook.
Also Read: What Is Google’s AI Adoption Framework
Can This Raise Concern For The Country’s Data?
This entire move of Google investment has also raised many questions about the country’s data. As a matter of fact, the inadequate data protection law of the country has posed great threats to users’ data with the penetration of foreign companies.
Google has been the king of Indian data collection with its search engine, street maps, internet browsing and payment platform, however, with its recent allegation of antitrust charges, makes it a vulnerable choice for sharing Indian customer data.
According to the complaint raised against Google, it gives an unfair advantage to GooglePay App in the Android market over other payment apps like Softbank-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe, using search manipulation, hurting Indian customers. The company has also gone through additional antitrust charges, where it had to pay a fine of $21 million for search bias.
Alongside, having such a significant investment in a country like India might create a digital monopoly which is going to hamper the businesses of the recent tech startups booming in the country. Thus, such investments need to be authorised under robust data protection law as to how the customer data will be circulated before actually welcoming it in the country.
Google’ recent commitment is indeed going to significantly boost India’s digital economy, where it aims to build one lakh digital villages and augment health-tech. However, to gain maximum advantage, India should create a robust data protection law and should make these foreign companies abide by the rules. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see how Google plans to ramp up its investment to encourage digital innovation in India.
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Sejuti currently works as Senior Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine (AIM). Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org