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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Google invests $10 bn digitisation fund in India

Google has decided to invest $10bn into India, in the form of a digitisation fund. This tops Facebook's investment, and works well for Modi, who envisions a fully digitised India.

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US tech giant Google is investing in a $10 billion fund to help accelerate India’s transition to a digital economy in the next five to seven years.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc’s Google, said on Monday that the project will focus on building products that are relevant to India’s needs and empowering businesses for their “digital transformation”.

Google to launch digitisation fund for India

“Our goal is to ensure India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation, but leads it,” Pichai said in a digital keynote at a Google for India event.

The company also announced it will invest $1 million to support digital education in India. It said the fund will enable one million teachers in 22,000 schools across the country to use Google services that can facilitate online learning.

Google will invest $10 billion in India over the next five to seven years with the aim of consolidating its position in the digital ecosystem of the world’s fifth-largest economy that is emerging as a battleground for global internet giants.

Alphabet Inc-owned Google’s outlay for India — nearly double the $5.7 billion investment made by rival Facebook in the digital platform of India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries in April — will be deployed through a mix of investments and partnerships, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai told ET in an exclusive interview on Monday morning.

“It’s a unique opportunity given where India is poised. We are looking forward to working with Indian businesses of all sizes,” he said in the video interview.

Pichai, among the most successful Indian immigrants in the US, has been critical of US President Donald Trump’s move to suspend H-1B visas. Google was the top recipient of the visas in 2019, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“The free flow of ideas and people have definitely benefited the US. In the long run, it helps connect countries closer,” he said.

Digitisation is a major priority in India 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made digitisation a major priority for India, his government says.

He envisions a “Digital India” where high-speed Internet access will empower entrepreneurs to build software and other technology products to help raise the standard of living in a country where many households are still impoverished.

The Indian premier styles himself as a leader in touch with technology and has nearly 60 million Twitter followers.

Modi said in a tweet that he and Pichai met and discussed a wide range of subjects, “particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of India’s farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs”.

“I was delighted to know more about the efforts of Google in several sectors, be it in education, learning, Digital India, furthering digital payments and more,” he said.

India bans Chinese apps amid feud 

In June, India banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including the wildly popular TikTok and WeChat, over national security and privacy concerns two weeks after a deadly Himalayan border clash between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

The apps “are engaged in activities… prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” the Ministry of Information Technology said in a statement.

Read more: India asserts its ‘dominance’ by banning Chinese apps

“The government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain apps… This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.”

Most of the applications are highly popular in India, including ByteDance-owned video-sharing apps TikTok and Helo, file-sharing app SHAREit and Alibaba’s UC browser and UC News, with a combined user base of more than half a billion.

There are estimated to be about 120 million TikTok users in India, making the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people the app’s biggest international market.

Other apps on the banned list include microblogging app Weibo and strategy game Clash of Kings.

News Desk with addl input from other sources