Google to invest $10 bn in India to promote digital inclusion

Google to invest $10 bn in India to promote digital inclusion
Photo Credit: Reuters
13 Jul, 2020

Mountain View, California headquartered technology major Google on Monday said it would invest $10 billion in India over the next five to seven years to aid digital inclusion in the country.

“We will 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,” the company said in a statement.

The proposed investment will be made through the Google for Indian Digitalization Fund and focus on four aspects of digital inclusion -- provide access to information in vernacular languages, develop India-specific products and services, aid businesses to digitally transform, and use technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) for soft infrastructure such as health, education and agriculture, it said.

The Alphabet-owned company is counting on the increasing online presence of small businesses to support its massive investment proposal and aid the government’s Digital India campaign. According to the company, 26 million small businesses are currently discoverable online, with the user base touching about 150 million every month. 

As contactless payments and social distancing become the norm due to the Covid-19 pandemic, small merchants have adopted digital payments methods, Caesar Sengupta, vice president of Google, said. 

“Since the Google Pay for Business app launched in India eight months ago, more than three million merchants are using it. Last year, we introduced Google Pay, enabling merchants to create commercial experiences that breached the online and offline worlds,” Sengupta said.

Additionally, the company said it will increase its focus on investments in Indian startups through its arm CapitalG. Founded in 2013, the investment vehicle recently backed fintech lender Aye Finance in a growth funding round.

Google also plans to give a fillip to its existing programmes, such as Internet Saathi, which it says has helped 30 million women to gain digital skills and AI-powered reading tutor app Read Along.

Low-cost smartphones and affordable data with telecom infrastructure have presented new opportunities for technology companies to invest in India, the company said. However, Google is not the only global conglomerate to see investment opportunities in the country. 

In April, social media major Facebook announced a $5.7 billion investment in Reliance Industries-owned telecom arm Jio Platforms, which triggered a string of investments, totalling over Rs 1,00,000 crore, by private equity firms and technology companies. Just earlier today, Delaware, California-based Qualcomm invested $97 million in the company.

Earlier this year, Seattle-based ecommerce major Amazon chief Jeff Bezos announced plans to invest $1 billion in India over the next six years to onboard and digitise micro, small and medium enterprise on its platform.