Google chief executive Sundar Pichai on Monday announced plans to invest Rs 75,000 crore in India over the next five to seven years to help accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in the country.
India-born Pichai, who held a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday morning, made the announcement at annual 'Google for India' event via video conference.
Announcing the Rs 75,000 crore investment in India over the next 5-7 years through 'Google for India Digitisation Fund', Pichai asserted that the move is a reflection of company's confidence in the future of the country and its digital economy.
Pichai said a whole new generation of technologies are happening in India first, and that people in the country no longer have to wait for technology to come to them.
"There's no question we are facing a difficult moment today, in India and around the world. The dual challenges to our health and to our economies have forced us to rethink how we work and how we live. But times of challenge can lead to incredible moments of innovation," Pichai said.
The company is committed to ensure that India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation, but in fact leads it, he said.
"Today, I'm excited to announce the Google for India Digitisation Fund. Through this effort, we will invest Rs 75,000 crore, or approximately USD 10 billion, into India over the next 5-7 years. We'll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments," Pichai said.
Investments will focus on four areas key to India's digitisation, including enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, be it Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi or any other, he said.
Other focus areas will be building new products and services relevant to India's unique needs, empowering businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation, and leveraging technology and Aritificial Intelligence (AI) for social good, in areas such as health, education, and agriculture.
Earlier, the Prime Minister tweeted: "This morning, had an extremely fruitful interaction with @sundarpichai. We spoke on a wide range of subjects, particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of India's farmers, youngsters, and entrepreneurs".
Pichai, who is the chief executive officer of Google's parent Alphabet Inc, replied: "Thank you for your time, PM @narendramodi - very optimistic about your vision for Digital India and excited to continue our work towards it".
Addressing 'Google for India' event, Pichai said India 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," he said.
Pichai counted digitisation of small businesses as one of the most exciting success stories, and noted 26 million SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) are now discoverable on search and maps, driving connections with more than 150 million users every month.
"What's more, small merchants across the country are now equipped to accept digital payments," Pichai said.
The global pandemic has "supercharged" the adoption of digital tools. A case in point, he said, is digital payments, that has enabled families across India to access goods and services during the lockdowns.
"For them, grocery delivery services have been invaluable," Pichai said, adding on a lighter note that he is sure, though, that his grandmother misses haggling over the price of her vegetables in person.
Lauding Digital India's success, Pichai said the country has made huge progress in getting a billion Indians online. Low-cost smartphones combined with affordable data and strong telecom infrastructure, have ushered new opportunities, Pichai said.
Building products for India first has helped Google build better products for users everywhere, he said.
Google also announced a new initiative with Prasar Bharati, launching an edutainment series on Doordarshan on how small businesses can adopt digital tools and adapt to the current situation, using examples of real life Indian businesses.
Google also announced a partnership with CBSE to train over 1 million teachers in 22,000 schools across India by the end of 2020, to deliver blended learning that combines the classroom approach with online learning, using free tools like G Suite for Education, Google Classroom, and YouTube.
To support underserved low-income communities, it has also announced a new Google.org grant of USD 1 million to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) as part of the Global Distance Learning Fund.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine