16 December 2015 13:06:31 IST

Google to invest more in India, set up new campus

New campus in Hyderabad; increase hiring in Bengaluru

Google will invest more in India, step up hiring, build a new campus and provide affordable Internet access to millions in a nation that is US-based firm’s most important untapped market for adding users.

The firm’s India-born chief executive Sunder Pichai, on his first official visit to India since taking the top job in August, announced plans to provide Internet connectivity to 100 railway stations across the country by next year.

Describing India as among its most important market, Pichai said Google will set up a new campus in Hyderabad and invest both in engineering and business development in India as well as work to increase internet access and develop products that are lighter and faster.

“We will build new campus, ramp up engineering presence in Hyderabad to make products for India; and increase hiring in Bengaluru,” he said.

Pichai added that the company will power 100 railway stations across the country with WiFi by December 2016 as part of its partnership with RailTel.

“Mumbai Central (station) will go live by January,” he added.

The telecom wing of the Indian Railway, RailTel, had signed an agreement with the subsidiary of Google India to provide WiFi facilities at 400 stations across the country.

“Our focus on bringing Internet access to everyone, making sure our products are working for them in a meaningful way and then ensure our platform allows them to add their voice to the Internet,” the India-born CEO said.

Besides, Google will also expand its rural internet programme for women from pilot to full scale programme to cover three lakh villages in India, he said.

Meeting PM and President

During his two-day visit Pichai, who grew up in Chennai, is to meet with top officials, President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to outline the ways Google is trying to connect those coming online for the first time in the country of more than 1.2 billion people.

Pichai met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and IT & Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today and is scheduled to meet Modi tomorrow.

Pichai, who is credited with building products such as Google’s Chrome browser and the Chrome operating system, and is known for his keen intellect and modesty, is looking at getting more people to plug into the company’s services, such as search, Gmail and YouTube.

He is also seeking to revive fortunes of Android One Phone that met a lukewarm response from the Indian market after its launch last year.

Pichai said India will overtake the US in terms of users of Android, which competes with Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows operating systems.

Google, which is the dominant search engine across major markets, said India ranks second, after the US, in terms of search volumes from mobile phones.

Mobile versus Desktop

It already sees higher volumes of search traffic from India on mobile devices than those from desktop PCs.

“Mobile has proven to be a great equaliser, giving access to computing to a billion more people and counting. But there are fundamental questions around how to ensure a truly inclusive, open Internet for everyone,” Pichai said.

He added that Google aims to give people in India and other developing countries better access to Internet through better connectivity and high-quality software.

“We want to make it easier for Indians to build on top of Google’s global platforms like Android and Chrome to build solutions to local problems. We will train two million new Android developers over the next three years by working closely with more than 30 universities across the country in partnership with the National Skill Development Corporation,” Google VP (Engineering of the Developers Product Group) Jason Titus said.

He added that Google will introduce ‘Chromebit’, a small device that turns a monitor into a computer, in India from next month to help boost computing in the education sector.

Vernacular Google

Pichai also spoke of the need for adding vernacular languages to Internet as a major chunk of the Indian population joining Internet will be non-English speaking. Google has created a new virtual keyboard that makes it easy to type in 11 Indian languages.

“Also, in the first quarter of 2016, Google will release a feature called Tap to Translate that allows the instant translation of any text on the Android phone,” Vice President for Google’s Next Billion initiatives Caesar Sengupta said.

To tackle the issue of patchy networks and poor connectivity in developing countries, Google is focusing on ensuring its products work well on low bandwidth.

“By 2018, more than 500 million users will be online in India. Google has been on a long journey in India to build products that connect more people, regardless of cost, connectivity, language, gender, or location,” Google India and Southeast Asia VP Rajan Anandan said.