While Google’s search business and online video site YouTube are growing briskly, the Internet giant is busy with a grand plan to put 400 million Indians on to the Web.
Google's India managing director Rajan Anandan told Hindustan Times in an interview that tablet-based usage was a key area of focus, as was the development of exclusive media content. Excerpts:
Q: What is the big picture now since you took over at Google India?
Ans: We are very pleased about how the mobile Internet is developing on the device side.When I joined (Google India) there were less than 2 million connected smartphones in India but by the end of 2013 there will be 70 million connected smartphone users in India. So this low-cost highly affordable smartphone phenomenon has begun to happen in the country and we are very glad about it. We are seeing explosive growth for all our products on mobile whether it is search or it is the video. YouTube, for instance, now has 38% of its use from mobiles.
Q: So where is your next phase of growth going to come from? Will it continue only through the smartphones or from tablets as well?
And: Well, the next phase of our mobile growth is really from the tablets.
Today, we really have affordable tablets in India and the growth has been explosive. In fourth quarter of 2012, tablet shipments surpassed consumer notebook shipments in India. In the fourth quarter of 2013, tablet shipments will surpass all notebook shipments and sometime very soon tablet shipments will surpass all notebook and desktop shipments in India. So, in tablets we are at the same place where smartphones were probably a year and half ago. On the device side we have made tremendous progress.
Q: What about the connectivity and bandwidth…
Ans: The ecosystem on connectivity side---the bandwidth-- has a long way to go. So quite frankly if were to say what are top three things that India can do to accelerate the Internet ecosystem. Then, number one it is bandwidth, number two it is bandwidth and number three it is bandwidth.
Q: How does all these translate into visitor traffic on YouTube?
Ans: We have seen very good growth on YouTube. In 2011, we had 15 million unique users a month on YouTube. We have just crossed 55 million unique users a month on YouTube. Today we have 10,000 full-length Indian movies on YouTube and 95% of India’s music catalogue both in Hindi as well as regional is available on YouTube. The top six TV networks are there on YouTube. So three hours after you have watched a TV show you can go and watch the same on YouTube.
Q; But then do you get any YouTube exclusive content?
Ans: Well, we have a big drive to create a “web-only” content ecosystem. A whole new ecosystem that we are helping create is “videopreneurs”. We have 55 million users in India and around a billion users around the world. Couple this with a robust monetisation system and this creates an amazing opportunity for content creators. So we have amazing examples about housewives who have started making content about cooking recipes and earning money. And the web-only content is growing at 300% year-on-year.
We do believe that most of India is going to get access to media for the first time ever and that is through a mobile device connected to the Internet and that is why we believe that video is going to really rock.
Q: Tell us about Google’s plans to develop ecosystem around local languages in India?
Ans: Development of the Indic Web is indeed a priority for us. Around 150 million Indians speak, read and write English but the rest of India does not. So we are working on a number of things to figure out how we can enable the Indic Web.
At the simplistic level there are a few problems. First is access. So if you don’t speak English then you cannot really use translation. But, access with Indian language keyboards is actually very difficult and cumbersome. I can’t tell you how we are solving this but we are very focused on solving this.
Also, India does not have high quality open source fonts in local languages like the English language. So if you do not have high quality open source fonts then people come up with their different fonts, which are closed that in turn leads to difficulty in discovering the content.
India does have a plethora of content but it is just not there on the Internet. We are getting on the offline content on Internet. And “Indic” is really a big priority for us.