Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s India visit aims to strengthen tie-up with govt

Currently, Google has a minuscule smartphone market share in the country which is dominated by the likes of Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo and Realme.

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At a time when policy frameworks are in the works for big tech companies, Google CEO Sundar Pichai‘s upcoming visit to India after five years is largely driven by an aim to tighten the loose strings with the government.

In a short span, much has happened on regulatory developments in the country, some of which have not been in favour of Google. According to government lobbyists, discussions around the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) penalty of Rs 2,274 crore on the tech giant for abusing its dominant position in the Android smartphone operating system and Android mobile app store will be on top of the agenda when Pichai visits.

“Before the CCI order, Google was committed to manufacture its premium Pixel phones in the country, now they are evaluating the options. Discussions with the government now will give more clarity on the issue. Google’s manufacturing of phones in India will be a win-win for both the government and the company,” an industry expert said.

Also Read: ‘India is a part of me’: Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai

Currently, Google has a minuscule smartphone market share in the country which is dominated by the likes of Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo and Realme.

Lately, the company has also been planning to take legal action against the CCI order. However, it seems that the discussions with the top officials will give more clarity on that, experts said.

Pichai’s visit to India will begin with an interaction with communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at the Google for India 2022 event on Monday. With Pichai, Google’s senior officials including Sanjay Gupta, Google India head & vice-president, Royal Hansen, vice-president – engineering, privacy, safety and security, and Elizabeth Reid, vice-president – search, among others, will be present.

Sources in the know said the government is expected to push Google to start manufacturing its smartphones in India. Further, discussions around the draft digital data protection bill, and the upcoming digital India bill will also be key topics to be discussed.

Also Read: Google to merge mapping service Waze with maps products teams

In the upcoming digital India Act, the government is planning to introduce provisions for light-touch regulations for companies like Google and Apple in a way to balance both innovation and fair play.

As per the regulation, the companies would not be forced to open their operating system and app store – Android and IoS – to all domestic players who would be free to install/uninstall apps of their choice.

However, they will have to mandatorily give valid and justifiable reasons for not onboarding apps on their platforms.

Since India is a key market for Google, in 2020 it had announced an investment plan of $10 billion in the country over the next 5-7 years by way of partnerships, and other arrangements.

Two years ago, while announcing the Google for India Digitization Fund of $10 billion, Pichai had said, “this is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy”.

More such statements and commitments from the top official of Google may come during his visit to India starting next week.

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First published on: 17-12-2022 at 02:00 IST