Sundar Pichai announces $10bn fund
New Delhi: Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that his company will invest nearly $10 billion into developing digital infrastructure and for funding innovation in India over the next five to seven years, he said on Monday, shortly after holding an online meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India-born Pichai made the announcement at the sixth edition of Google for India event, saying the tech giant will help expand the scope of digital payments using Google Pay, and develop low-cost smartphones and other products and services relevant to India. He hoped India will lead the next wave of innovation.
“We spoke on a wide range of subjects, particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of India’s farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs,” Modi tweeted earlier in the day, detailing his “extremely fruitful interaction” with Pichai.
Modi said he and Pichai, who is the chief executive officer of Google’s parent Alphabet Inc, also discussed “the new work culture that is emerging in the times of Covid-19”, and the challenges the pandemic has brought. They also talked about the “importance of data security and cyber safety”.
“I was delighted to know more about the efforts of @Google in several sectors, be it in education, learning, @_DigitalIndia, furthering digital payments and more,” Modi added, referring to a flagship programme of his government.
In his reply, Pichai said: “Thank you for your time, PM @narendramodi - very optimistic about your vision for Digital India and excited to continue our work towards it.”
Later, at the Google for India event held via video conference, Pichai said Google for India Digitization Fund will invest $10 billion (about Rs 75,000 crore) over the next five to seven years, stressing that the move is “a reflection our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy”.
“We will work towards enabling affordable internet access to every Indian in their own language,” Pichai said. He added that special attention will be paid to empowering small businesses, and leveraging technology and artificial intelligence for areas such as health and agriculture.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for electronics and information technology, said the digital transformation of India has especially focused on “digital inclusion”.
“We are working towards developing 100,000 digital villages across India and I would appreciate if Google could pick a cluster of these villages and make them model villages in terms of skilling and delivery of telemedicine,” he added.
According to R Chandrashekar, former president of industry body NASSCOM and chairman of the Centre for the Digital Future — a policy research organisation — Google’s move is an endorsement of the potential of India’s digital economy.
“The investment is pretty large and will help drive innovation that will primarily come from start-ups and the tech eco-system in the country,” Chandrashekar told HT. He added that the initiative will also help in job creation.
RK Bhatnagar, former technical advisor at the department of telecommunications, said the tie-up shows that most of the major US-based companies, after turning away from China, are looking at India. “That they are looking to make India a manufacturing hub is a possibility that is now becoming visible,” Bhatnagar told HT.