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Did A Missed China Opportunity Lead To Google Stepping Up Investment in India

Did A Missed China Opportunity Lead To Google Stepping Up Investment in India

Richa Bhatia

It is no surprise that India is a giant playground for Mountain View headquartered, Sundar Pichai led Google. The second largest internet market in the world after China, with 460 million users, Google sees a huge potential in cornering a big slice of this ever-growing revenue opportunity in India. The numbers are only expected to grow to 635.8 million internet users in India by 2021.

Missed opportunities in China leads to Google setting sight on India

Rightly so, the internet giant missed this huge opportunity in the internet-savvy country like China, where users reportedly spend  $35 billion on apps and these numbers are projected to grow. With services blocked way back in 2010, the search giant ceded ground to homegrown company Baidu and Tencent.

Well, seems like the setbacks in China has fueled Google’s ambition 10x what with its India-first approach spearheaded by Caesar Sengupta, VP, Next Billion Users team, tasked with tapping into emerging market with India-focused products. Google’s ambitious Next Billion initiative was first launched in 2012 with a focus to cash in on the mobile-first Southeast Asia market – including countries like Singapore, Indonesia and India that embraced internet as a path towards economic prosperity.

For users from developing countries, a low-cost smartphone is the first computer, observed Sengupta. The first step the company took was to make internet more accessible by building lighter applications that load faster, increasing data efficiency and take steps to increase internet adoption amongst SMBs. Sengupta has earlier served as Product Management Director for Google Chrome OS, which is now the most used browser.

And it’s not just the ambitious India-first product strategy with Next Billion Users initiative that has analysts buzzing. In the last year, Google significantly intensified its plans for India — from investing in startups to launching training program, unveiling the first Google Cloud Platform in Mumbai and even making its maiden acquisition with four-month-old Bengaluru-based Halli Labs and now Bengaluru-based startup Dunzo.

Analytics India Magazine takes a look at recent developments by Google India helmed by Google India MD Rajan Anandan and Sengupta marshalling the company to success:  

1) Bridging the Product Gap with Next Billion Users initiative: The last few weeks has seen a flurry of India-specific announcements – Tez payment and commerce app that eliminates the need for e-wallet and flaky netbanking services, allowing users to make payments directly from the bank in real-time. Files Go launched in December helps users free up space on phones faster, find files and even share it offline. But the crown jewel among the newly-launched suite of India-focused apps has been the launch of Android Oreo Go, built for entry-level phones with new, upgraded built-in apps that offer a seamless browsing experience and data saving features. Also check out the special edition of Google Assistant — voice-based user interface, for JioPhone, available both in English and Hindi, launched in December 2017.  

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End Game: Their strategy is simple – localizing existing products by identifying the pain points of users. One of the most notable roll-outs was the recently launched Google Translate in India, 2017 that allows users to surf the internet in their own language, by offering support to 22 regional languages. It added voice search in 8 languages.

2) Google Deepens Investment in India: In its quest to tap into the next billion users, the internet giant is planning to invest in startups that could give it access to a rich user base, case in point is the recent investment in hyper-local concierge and delivery startup Dunzo in December last year. In July 2017, it bought four-month old machine learning startup Halli Labs, its maiden acquisition.  

End Game: News reports hint that the world’s biggest internet company wants to focus on startups that can help it push the Next Billion Users initiative by giving access to low-bandwidth internet users, largely from small Indian cities. Analysts peg future investments could be in tech-enabled startups from finance, healthcare, education and mobile utilities sector.

3) Training developers on Android platform: The company has come a long way from partnering with PM Modi’s Skill India initiative launched in 2016 – the Android Skilling and certification program which aimed to train two million developers over a period of three years. The Android Developer training is available for free across universities. Close on the heels of Android training, Google is now offering 130K scholarships for developers and students to create a technically advanced workforce. Google partnered with various training institutes for the initiative and has also open-sourced its courseware of Android Developer Fundamentals to everyone for free.

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End Game: This is a great way for creating a talent pipeline for android developers who are in high demand.  

4) Leveraging on ML & AI with GCP: It is definitely a late entrant to Indian cloud market, dominated by AWS & Microsoft Azure but the Mountain View giant is differentiating Google Cloud through its heft in machine learning and artificial intelligence. The company set up its first Google Cloud Platform in Mumbai and wooed a AWS customer Hike Messenger, consumer internet company with over 100 million users in India. Other notable clients include Hungama, DB Corp Ltd, Innoplexus AG.

End Game: Google is bullish about pushing its cloud service in India where 95 per cent of computational workloads are yet to  move to cloud. Besides the ML & AI capabilities, the company believes its pay-per-minute model for customers would help it gain an edge over rivals AWS & Microsoft Azure. Given that public cloud is set for growth, there is no doubt that the company wants to play catch-up with its rivals.

5) Makes a play in consulting services: Earlier this year, the internet giant rolled out professional consulting services in India which means, they will work with big clients to deliver training in cutting edge technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence and help build applications on top of Google’s machine learning platforms.

End Game: Given the huge uptake in G-suite services amongst SMBs (Gmail, Google Drive) the company is also expected to push its G-suite services deeper by directly engaging with customers.

Last Word

There is no doubt that after China, India has become the next battleground for tech giants Facebook, Amazon & Microsoft that are slowly expanding their product portfolio to benefit from the ever expanding revenue opportunity 442.7 million mobile internet users offer in India. The aggressive rethinking of existing product portfolio underscores the Google’s aim to get the next 1 billion users faster. Another viewpoint is that for Google, India is akin to a test market. Products launched in India will be unveiled in other Asian markets as well, for example Files Go app is now available globally. Google top brass Sundar Pichai’s frequent visits to India is an indication of how the company wishes to bridge the product gap and bring more users from small towns onboard.


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