Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday underlined the search giant’s intention to push for more internet adoption in India, announcing free Wi-Fi in 100 railway stations as promised to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit to Silicon Valley earlier this year.
At a large-scale event of the company in New Delhi, Pichai, who was accompanied by other top executives of the company, announced plans to launch a “huge new” campus in Hyderabad and to recruit more Indians for business development too.
Pichai said Mumbai Central will the first of the 100 railway stations, getting Wi-Fi connectivity by December 2016.
The India-born CEO said the company wanted to connect Indians in their own languages and Android — the most popular mobile operating system in India — was already supporting up to 11 local languages. He said YouTube and Google Maps were already available offline in the country, while the “search team in India has made pages lighter and they now load faster”.
Google Search VP Tamar Yehoshua said 50 per cent of Indian internet users were on 2G networks, while those on 3G were complaining of 2G-like speeds. “Google plans to fix that with Google AMP pages,” she said, about the new product that is being rolled out in India. “We need to make sure our products work across Indian languages and that search works across 2G networks,” she said, reiterating how it was “inspiring” to give access to all those who have never experienced Internet before. She said Google will launch improved versions of live cricket scores and replays on search early next year.
Google will introduce a pause buffer feature allowing users to pause video, leave it to buffer, even leave the app or site and let it continue buffering, said Eyal Manor, Vice-President of Engineering for YouTube. He said content uploaded on YouTube from India has also doubled and time spent was growing at 150 per cent ahead of global figures.
Google Maps VP Jen Fitzpatrick said India ranks third in terms of local guides on Google Maps.
Rajan Anandan, Vice President of Google in India and Southeast Asia, said by 2018, more than 500 million users will be online in India from 29 states speaking over 23 languages. “But in 2020, over 30 per cent of mobile internet will still be from 2G connections. Google has been on a long journey in India to build products that connect more people, regardless of cost, connectivity, language, gender, or location,” Anandan said.
Google also confirmed that its Asus Chromebit will be available in India for Rs 7999. The Chromebit lets users upgrade their old PCs and desktops to get a faster, Chromebook like experience.