The year has seen the CEOs of leading global technology firms—Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Google—visiting India. On his first visit after taking over as the CEO of the $66-billion Google in August, India-born Sundar Pichai indicated big plans for the country. There are three broad areas—helping more people access the internet, ensuring products work for the people of India and creating a platform for users to give back to the internet in the form of sharing and comments. Google plans to hire more engineers, open a huge new campus in Hyderabad, expand existing campuses and provide free wi-fi connectivity at 400 railway stations across India. The first 100 stations starting with Mumbai Central will be commissioned in 2016. The big driver for the search giant is that by the year-end, India, with 400 million users, will overtake the US and be second only to China in terms of internet subscribers. While that is big, the opportunity lies in tapping the 800 million Indians who are still untapped. That’s where Google’s Project Loon—where a network of high-altitude balloons (20 kilometres above Earth’s surface) will help provide internet connectivity in areas that do not have access to optic fibre infrastructure—comes into the picture. Google has got an in-principle approval for a pilot project. Project Loon could plug into the government’s plan to link up 2.5 lakh gram panchayats with an optic fibre backbone.
Considering that there are 16 recognised languages in the country, there is a greater need to provide regional content on the internet. That’s where Google’s Tap to Translate service that will be launched in early 2016 in India will come handy. It will help users to convert in real-time any text within an app by simply highlighting it. That also fits in with the growth of the Android ecosystem in India, where there will be more users than in the US in 2016. The company is also partnering with the government’s skill development arm to train 2 million Android developers in India. As if that was not enough, to promote start-ups the venture capital arm, Google Capital has set aside $20 million, with up to $20,000 earmarked per start-up. Google’s plans open up yet another huge opportunity for the Indian developer community. Pichai has set the stage for growth. Now it is time for Indian entrepreneurs to use this opportunity to the fullest.