The announcement from Google that it plans to invest $10 billion to aid India’s digital transformation may not be the first investment plan of its kind to target India in recent months, but it’s surely the biggest.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has been quoted in interviews in the Indian Economic Times newspaper as saying that the money will fuel a combination of equity investments, partnerships and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments over the next five to seven years.
Affordable access, providing information in local languages, and creating new products and services to address the country’s unique needs were highlighted as areas the company plans to target. Pichai also suggested that the money could go towards helping businesses with digital transformation efforts and using technology and AI to improve healthcare, education and agriculture.
This vast sum will be deployed, he indicated, through a mix of investments in large Indian companies, start-ups and partnerships, as well as investments in infrastructure such as data centres.
As for who the company might partner with, Google will apparently be looking out for companies that can build for India and scale up quickly across languages.
The country has achieved a lot already, of course, as Pichai pointed out, citing low-cost smartphones, affordable data plans and high-quality telecommunications infrastructure as drivers for online access – but he is surely right to suggest that there’s still more work to do.
So far a major beneficiary of investments from US companies has been Reliance Industries’ digital unit Jio Platforms, which has attracted Qualcomm, Intel, Facebook and private equity groups. It’s true that the Google plan is in its early stages and there isn’t a lot of detail yet. However, it doesn’t affect just one company; it promises to have a wider impact on many firms, both established and new.