Google to invest $10bn in India’s ‘digital future’

Tech conglomerate Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) announced at its annual online Google for India 2020 event on Monday that it plans to invest $10 billion in India over the next five to seven years to scale up the country’s digital infrastructure.

The initiative comes as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to being ‘a part of India’s digitisation journey since 2004’, when Google opened its first offices in Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai launched the new programme – named the Google for India Digitisation Fund – via video link at the company’s annual conference, focused on making information ‘universally accessible and useful’ so that Indians can ‘make a positive impact on their communities’.

The investment drive will include a mixture of private equity, partnerships, and infrastructure investments, with emphasis on four key areas:

  • ‘enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, whether it’s Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi or any other’
  • ‘building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs’
  • ’empowering businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation’
  • ‘leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture’

India is a key emerging market for Google, with more than 500 million people connected to the internet and 450 million smartphones nestled in pockets across the country. And, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, India represents an unprecedented opportunity for the tech giant to scale up its services.

A number of Google products – such as YouTube and Android – have already taken off on the subcontinent, but the Google for India Digitisation Fund is designed to herald a new ‘digital-first future’ for the developing market.

Welcoming Google’s announcement, Pichai said:

“India’s own 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.

“As we make these investments, we look forward to working alongside Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government, as well as Indian businesses of all sizes to realize our shared vision for a Digital India.

“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. Our goal is to ensure India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation, but leads it. Working together we can ensure that our best days are still ahead”.

Google is not the only company set on capitalising on India’s astonishing potential for market growth, however. Earlier this year, Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon would be pumping $1 billion into helping small and medium-sized Indian businesses get online, on top of the $5.5 billion that Amazon has already invested in the country.

India’s own Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously launched the Digital India campaign, aiming to ‘transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy’.

The investment drive marks Google’s second business venture in India. Back in 2015, the company teamed up with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Intel to launch Internet Saathi, a programme designed to improve digital literacy among women living in rural areas. Forbes reported in 2017 that 17 million women had already benefited from the initiative.

Both Mr Pichai and Mr Modi hailed Google’s new programme on their Twitter accounts on Monday morning:

Google, a subsidiary of Pichai-owned Alphabet Inc., appears to be doing well on the back of the news, adding to a year of pretty consistently good results – no doubt aided by the surge in internet use during the worldwide coronavirus lockdown.

The company’s share price is up 1.98% or 30.46 to 1,569.47 USD at GMT-4 11:07 13/07/20, up considerably from its July 2019 shares which traded at just 1,145.34 USD.

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Junior Journalist at the UK Investor Magazine. Focuses primarily on finance and business content. Has personal interests in Middle Eastern politics, human rights issues, and sustainability initiatives.