Googles Gameplan for the next billion clicks

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Dec 10 2012, 07:19am hrs
Between now and 2015, the powerful internet company expects 500 million new users from emerging markets to come online, compared to only 15 million new users from the US. A large part is going to come from India, a strategic market for Google and a place where most of these new users will experience the Web for the first time on a mobile devicenot on a desktop computer. The Silicon Valley firm is moving aggressively in terms of investments and fine-tuning products for customers here

Technology alone does not make a successful company. Business tactics do. In his best-seller The Google Guys, Richard Brandt has succinctly captured how Google, a thriving corporation teeming with youthful and smart computer scientists and a incredible knowledge of the internet, has become one of the biggest, most influential companies in technology today. For the uninitiated, when the brainy pair of Stanford University computer science studentsLarry Page and Sergey Brinlaunched Google in mid-1998, it was Yahoo that sat on top of the internet industry. More than 25 million people visited Yahoo every month and it was a place where 75% of Web searches were begun. In short, it was one of the most hot internet properties at that time.

Then Yahoo fell apart, primarily because it was still playing by the old rules and was oblivious to the sweeping changes that were taking place in the dot-com economy. Not quite Google, the Mountain View, California-based company, which had by then come up with a much better way to search on the internet. Not only was Google in sync with the flow of change, its pace of innovation was growing by leaps and bounds. Fuelled primarily by a new business model in the form of online advertising, rather than technology alone; the initial design of Googles search engine did not have technology much more advanced than its competitors. It was how its founders used and refused to abuse the technology that mattered, stresses Brandt, in his must-read for anyone who deals seriously with cyberspace.

Cut to present. There is no doubt that Google is today one of the worlds most powerful internet companies. When senior Google management talks about activating the internet for the next billion people, it is bound to have a significant influence on modern industries, including IT, telecommunication, publishing, broadcasting and entertainment.

Last week, Singapore was the venue for Googles technology leaders to give a glimpse on how they are working to get more people online in emerging markets. Between now and 2015, we expect 500 million new users from emerging markets to come online, compared to only 15 million new users from the US, says Julian Persaud, managing director of Googles South-East Asia operations. In 2000, internet was a rich persons tooltechnology of the West. In 2012, emerging markets are the mediums growth drivers. Unlike in developed countries, most of these new internet users will experience the Web for the first time on a mobile devicenot on a desktop computer. Internet is getting a new definition in India, Indonesia and Brazil. There is more mobile traffic in India, he reveals.

Based on the behaviour we have seen already from internet users in these countries, one of the first things they will do is use the Web to express their entrepreneurial spirit, grow their businesses and share their culture, says Googles regional boss. The Web is a big enabler for small and medium businesses. Around 73% of the next billion internet users do not come with an English background. Therefore, English will no longer be the dominant language on the internet.

First, a few facts. The number of internet users worldwide has mushroomed to reach the two billion markglobally, there are 2.4 billion internet users. International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that the number of mobile phone subscriptions also reached the symbolic threshold of five billion this year. With the worlds population exceeding 6.8 billion, nearly one person in three surfs online.

Who are the next billion And how is Google helping to get people online Lalitesh Katragadda, country headIndia products, Google, says A large part is going to come from India. The country now has 137 million internet users and 44 million smartphone subscribers. Around 90 million people access the internet on their mobile. Users in India have a deep need for the internet.

With an estimated 47 million small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the country India is a strategic market for Google, says Lalitesh. Driven by an overwhelming motivation to build a great company, he informs that the company is in the process of evolving strategies and fine-tuning products to reach out to the next billion internet users. Google is working to get more people online in emerging markets by making the internet faster and cheaper. We are building datacentres closer to our users in Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong and working with local internet service providers to ensure people have the fastest Web experience possible. And we are launching tools like Free Zone that provide free access to Gmail and search results so more can afford to connect. We are also adapting our services, including Gmail and video chat, to work on less reliable internet connections.

Company officials inform that Google has made significant investments in localising its market outreach to tap the various clusters of small and medium businesses. In India, only 400,000 small and medium businesses had a website or some sort of Web presence a couple of years ago. Googles Getting Indian Business Online initiative is changing that. We started the project to get at least 500,000 Indian businesses online with a website thats quick, easy and free to set upin next three years. Today, we have already published120,000 websites for small and medium business here, company officials inform.

In an effort to reach out small businesses, Google has started Free Zone and Google Trader in some markets that offer free internet and free websites for traders. We are working to get more local information onto the Web by providing online tools that make uploading easyGoogle+pages for businesses, and Trader, which allows small and medium businesses to post goods for sale without needing a separate website. Crowd sourcing has also emerged as one of the most effective ways to get local content online, says Lalitesh.

Google Map Makerwhich relies on citizen cartographersstarted in India as a way to make better maps of the subcontinent and is now used in more than over 200 countries and by the United Nations in crisis relief efforts. India is also one of the fastest growing Google Mobile Maps countries in the world. Earlier, India lacked the culture of using maps, but it is changing now. Around 46% of smartphone users in India are using their devices to look up directions, or just simply explore maps, says the creator of Google Map Maker. A more visually-oriented Web, such as YouTube, Google+Hangouts, and Google Maps, will be vital for making the internet more relevant across language and cultural barriers.

What happens when a billion new people come online Google officials profess that the global marketplace for ideas will grow from two to three billion peoplethat means a billion more people contributing and benefiting from the worlds best ideas, talents and more. From the example of YouTube, we have seen that online video helps local culture become stronger, and global culture now better reflects the worlds true diversity. This will also mean incredible new business opportunities as a billion new potential entrepreneurs, small business and consumers expand their markets and the global market, the Google technologist summarises.