Google's India-born chief Sundar Pichai today said the prices of entry-level smartphones in India need to come down further to around USD 30 to improve access to the Internet and digital services for people.
Pichai, who was speaking at his alma mater IIT-Kharagpur, said the focus is also on areas like local language support and improving connectivity in India as the country becomes a global player in the 'digital economy'.
"I would love to see cheaper smartphones, entry-level smartphones. I think to really we need to bring the prices down even more, maybe at USD 30 level (about Rs 2,000) for India for entry level smartphones," he said addressing an audience of 3,500 students and teachers.
In 2014, Google had launched its 'Android One' programme, partnering with handset makers, to launch high-quality, yet affordable Android devices for consumers in emerging markets like India. A few handsets were launched with partners like Micromax, Karbonn and Spice.
The devices launched that time were priced at Rs 6,399 onwards, but since then many more affordable smartphones with better specifications have hit the market.
Currently, there are smartphones available even for sub-Rs 1,000 but most of the aspirational devices are priced above Rs 3,000.
Pichai said the company has also been able to roll out many programmes for Digital India through "effective public-private partnerships".
He cited examples like partnership with RailTel for offering wi-fi services at railway stations and with NPCI for digitising payments.
When asked about by when India would be able to catch up with China on the digital front, Pichai said he is confident that India will be a global player in the digital economy.
"I think I am absolutely, with full certainty, convinced that India will be a global player in the digital economy and it will be competitive with any country in the world in the digital economy. We have all the foundation," he said.
He added that the startups in India, that is building products for India and the world, will ensure that happens.
Stating that connectivity is "extraordinarily important", Pichai said Google is also working on a number of projects like Internet Saathi to educate people on Internet, especially in rural areas, as well as to get them online.
Besides, Google is also working on making its services available in as many local Indian languages as possible.
"English is spoken only by a small segment of the overall population. So just getting Google to work in other languages is a big focus".
"We have made progress today in Android, with search, we support many languages but we want to do all that better so that it works even in rural situations with the right dialects and so on," he said.
After completing his B.Tech in metallurgical and materials engineering from IIT, Pichai did his M.S. In Engineering and Materials Science from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School and joined Google in 2004.
It was during this time in the campus that he fell in love with his classmate Anjali and married her later.
He recalled how he used to go to the girls' hostel to meet her and got embarrassed when someone would shout loudly, saying "Anjali Sundar is calling you".
After spending four great years in the campus, he said, he felt sad when time came for leaving.
"It is phenomenal to come back 23 years later," an emotional Pichai said.