Google announces $10 billion digitisation fund for India

The fund will focus on enabling affordable access to information in India in regional languages, to build products relevant to the needs of Indians, among others.
Google announces $10 billion digitisation fund for India
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Google on Monday announced that it will be setting up a $10 billion investment fund (approximately Rs 75,000 crore) for India, which it will be deploying over the next 5-7 years.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, which is the parent company of Google, made the announcement during the GoogleForIndia event. “We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Pichai said.

He said that the fund would focus on four areas.

The first, Pichai said, would be enabling affordable access and information for Indians in their own language, “whether it’s Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi or any other,” he said. 

The second would be building Google products and services relevant to the needs of India.

Thirdly, it will be to empower businesses, and fourth will be for social good — leveraging technology and Artificial Intelligence in fields such as health, education and agriculture.

“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,” Pichai said. 

"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," he said.

Pichai also recognised the rapid pace at which India was adopting technology. From the excitement of young people using the latest apps and services, to the ways people are using smartphones to improve lives in rural villages, to the more than 2,500 Indian YouTube creators who each have over a million subscribers, he said. 

Admitting that even he has turned to these creators, Pichai added, "I’ve actually turned to some of these creators for help over the last few weeks … for example, to learn how to make dishes like paneer makhani or pizza with my kids."

He further added that one of Google's success stories has been the digitisation of small business. He said that only one-third of small businesses in the country had an online presence, which is now at 26 milllion small businesses. "What’s more, small merchants across the country are now equipped to accept digital payments. This has made it possible for more small businesses to become part of the formal economy, and it improves their access to credit," he said. 

Pichai said Google's mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful is deeply personal to him. "Growing up, technology provided a window to a world outside my own. It also brought us closer together as a family. Every evening we were drawn to the television by Doordarshan’s special rendition of “Sare Jahan Se Accha.” I tried to explain this to my colleagues the other day, but I eventually gave up and just showed it to them on YouTube."

Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The way this new fund is going to be used from creating digital infrastructure and creating startups to further enhance their potential is something I would like to watch closely and personally. Our PM has already announced AtmaNirbhar Bharat where Indian entrepreneurs are being asked to create new digital products which are made in india. India's app economy is also growing.”

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