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Google announces $10 billion India Digitization Fund

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. File

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. File   | Photo Credit: AP

Technology giant Google will invest $10 billion (₹75,000 crore) in India over the next five-seven years with a focus on digitising the economy and building India-first products and services, its CEO Sundar Pichai said on Monday.

 

Speaking at the company’s annual event, Mr. Pichai, also the CEO of Alphabet (Google’s parent firm) said, “We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy.”

 

Focus on four areas

He said the investment will focus on four areas important to digitization including enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, building products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs, empowering businesses in their digital transformation journey and leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture.

With today’s announcement, Google becomes the latest U.S.-based technology firm to commit investments in India. In April, social networking major Facebook bought 9.9% stake in Jio Platform for ₹43,573.62 crore, while e-commerce giant Amazon had in January announced $1 billion investment over five years to help digitise small and medium businesses.

In India, Google has invested in multiple startups — either directly or via Alphabet’s growth fund CapitalG. Some of these start ups are Dunzo, Fynd, Halli Labs, Where in My Train, Aye Finance, Cardekho, Cuemath, Freshworks and Practo. In his address at the event, Minister for Communications and IT Ravi Shankar expressed hope that with this new Fund, Google will focus on promoting Indian startups further.

 

Interaction with Prime Minister

 

The Indian born Google CEO also spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video conference early on Monday. Mr. Modi tweeted that the interaction with Mr. Pichai was “extremely fruitful” and they spoke on a wide range of subjects, particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs.

 

“During our interaction, @sundarpichai and I spoke about the new work culture that is emerging in the times of COVID-19. We discussed the challenges the global pandemic has brought to areas such as sports. We also talked about the importance of data security and cyber safety,” the Prime Minister said.

 

During his address, Mr. Pichai said, “When I was young, every new piece of technology brought new opportunities to learn and grow. But I always had to wait for it to arrive from some place else. Today, people in India no longer have to wait for technology to come to you. A whole new generation of technologies are happening in India first.”

 

He said the global pandemic has supercharged the adoption of digital tools. Digital payments, for example, have enabled families across India to access goods and services during lockdowns.

 

Mr. Pichai said, “There’s no question we are facing a difficult moment today, in India and around the world. The dual challenges to our health and economies have forced us to rethink how we work and how we live. But times of challenge can lead to incredible moments of innovation.

 

“Our goal is to ensure India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation, but leads it. Working together we can ensure that our best days are still ahead.”

 

Substantial amount in digital transformation

Mr. Prasad said, “India today is seeking to transform the life of Indians with the power of technology, and I am very happy that Google is rising to the occasion by trying to invest a fairly substantial amount in the digital transformation. This emphasises upon digital inclusion and overcoming the digital divide.”

He said there is immense scope for Google to deploy Artificial Intelligence and undertake new initiatives in agriculture, weather prediction, healthcare in the wake of the COVID-19 challenges and most importantly in digital education.

 

“Today, India’s app economy is growing very powerfully, but we must not just download apps. It is important also to upload apps from India. I am sure with this new Fund, Google will also focus on promoting our startups further,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 7:42:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-modi-googles-pichai-discuss-how-tech-can-transform-lives/article32065016.ece

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