Of course, everyone in Google loves Sundar Pichai. But is there more to his being named CEO of Google’s traditional business?
The answer might lie in something that happened in China soon after the Larry Page announced the creation of Alphabet Inc, the new holding company of the world’s largest online search and advertising company. The website for Alphabet (https://abc.xyz/) was duly blocked in mainland China, even though it has nothing more than a note by CEO Larry Page. That is the kind of stonewalling Google has been facing in China, the world’s largest Internet market with 642 million users.
So Google is pretty much shut out of what is the largest growth market in the world. And it has reached a saturation point in home market US, the second largest with over 270 million users. And that is what makes India, the third largest market so crucial. India already has over 240 million Internet users and is growing thanks to popularity of affordable smartphones.
Google has been saying that at this rate India will have 500 million Internet users by 2018. That is a doubling in size of the largest market for Google. Now, consider the fact that India is already Google’s second largest market in volumes. At 500 million it would easily be Google’s largest market. Now, you know why it needs an Indian CEO.
While Sundar Pichai was quick to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s congratulatory tweet, it is hard to miss the fact that he has already been warming up to India over the past year or so. Pichai made at least one high profile trip to India to announce global launch of his ambitious Android One platform. The idea to give a reference design for affordable Android smartphones might not really found the kind of takers Pichai hoped for, but the move surely reiterated Google’s focus on India and its need to get the next 250 million Indians online.
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Growth for Google is dependent on the growth of the Internet. Only when there are more people online will it get more pages to serve ads and more search queries to monetise. And that is why they are always harping about taking Internet to places where it is not available at the moment.
The challenge for Google on this front is the fact that Indians who are comfortable with English are already online and the growth has to be in regional languages, especially in Hindi which has over 250 million speakers in India along. So, Google’s big growth is based on its ability to take search, and thus the Internet, to more native language speakers in India and other parts of the globe. And having a Chennai-born, Bengal-educated Tamil Brahmin at the helm could be a master-stroke.
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