US TECH giant Google said on Monday that it has set up a ‘Google for India Digitisation Fund’, through which it will invest $10 billion in the country over the next five to seven years through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, operations, infrastructure and ecosystem investments.
The announcement comes close on the heels of New Delhi signalling curbs on Chinese technology investments and banning 59 mobile apps with links to Chinese technology majors such as Alibaba – one of the largest Chinese investors in Indian startups.
Google’s investment plan includes a renewed “focus on bringing more high-quality low-cost smartphones to enable Internet access”.
Ahead of the announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video conference with Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and other senior executives of the company.
“This morning, had an extremely fruitful interaction with Sundar Pichai. 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. During our interaction, Sundar Pichai 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,” Modi tweeted.
Google said its $10-billion fund will focus on areas such as enabling affordable access to the internet and to information for every Indian in their own language; building new products and services in segments like consumer tech, education, health and agriculture; empowering businesses especially small and medium businesses to transform digitally; leveraging technology and artificial intelligence for digital literacy, outbreak predictions, and support for rural economies.
In addition, Google’s Vice-President, Payments, and Next Billion Users, Caesar Sengupta, said the company will focus on bringing more high-quality low-cost smartphones to enable Internet access.
“We partnered with many India hardware manufacturers to create high-quality phones running Android within prices to reach every Indian. We will focus on enabling more high-quality low-cost smartphones so more people can access the internet to learn, grow and succeed,” he said.
The company had earlier rolled out the Android One programme, under which it partnered with Indian OEMs like Lava, Micromax, Karbonn, etc, but it did not take off, particularly on account of cheaper Chinese devices and a large second-hand market of higher-end devices.
The $10-billion investment by Google is pegged to fill the space that could be left vacant by Chinese investors after the Indian government’s clampdown on Chinese companies. Earlier this year, India revised its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy to prevent “opportunistic takeovers” of firms hit by the lockdown. The move had upset China, which termed it a violation of international trade principles.
The Menlo Park-based company had earlier made investments in a handful of Indian ventures through its venture capital arm, in addition to public projects such as Google Station for WiFi at railway stations, Internet Saathi for spreading internet awareness in villages, and an artificial intelligence-based flood forecasting system, among others.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines