Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai yesterday pledged Rs. 75,000 crores, or $1 billion in investments in India for the next 5-7 years. Pichai was addressing the annual ‘Google for India’ virtual event when he made the big announcement. Prior to his address to the event, Sundar Pichai held a one-on-one virtual conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Calling it the ‘Google for India Digitisation Fund’, Pichai said the same will be deployed to accelerate Google’s efforts through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, operations, infrastructure and ecosystem investments over the next few years.
“This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Pichai said, adding that “building products for India first has helped us build better products for users everywhere…India’s own digital journey is far from complete. There’s still more work to do in order to make the Internet affordable and useful for a billion Indians. From improving voice input and computing for all of India’s languages, to inspiring and supporting a whole new generation of entrepreneurs.”
Primarily, the focus is to give a big push to India’s digitisation drive, under PM Modi’s flagship initiative, ‘Digital India’.
“As we make these investments, we look forward to working alongside Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government, as well as Indian businesses of all sizes to realize our shared vision for a Digital India,” the Google’s CEO said.
Key areas where the said fund will be utilised over the next five to seven years are:
- enabling affordable access and information to every Indian in their own language,
- building new products and services relevant to India’s unique needs,
- empowering businesses as they continue to embark in digital transformation, and
- leveraging technology and Artificial Intelligence for social good in areas like healthcare, education and agriculture.
What is interesting, however, is that the Prime Minister and Sundar Pichai are said to have had a detailed discussion on the issue of data security and privacy, and that PM Modi told Pichai in no uncertain terms that tech companies must work towards bridging the trust deficit. The Prime Minister also spoke about cybercrimes and threats in the form of cyber-attacks, BusinessLine reported.
The large-scale investment pledge by Google comes in the backdrop of India taking the world by surprise, and banning 59 Chinese apps over apprehensions of them sharing user data with the Chinese Communist Party.
This has definitely sent the required message to all tech companies worldwide, that India means business, and no matter how popular a platform or app might be in the digital scene, India will not hesitate from securing its cyberspace if a threat is looming over it.
The banning of TikTok, despite its massive popularity in India, was a testimony of the same intent. Therefore, Google is consolidating its position in India and is seeking to fill the void created by the absence of 59 CCP apps.