Supports 750 million ads across 40 languages a month

Walk into Google’s office in Gurgaon and you won’t find anything extraordinary.

There are the usual cubicles spread over two floors of rented space, youngsters hanging around with laptops, a cafeteria and everything else you would expect to see in the office of any large multinational.

It’s nowhere near the size of the Google headquarters in California or as luxurious as the one in Zurich, though.

But the work being done at Google’s India centres is strategic for the Internet giant’s global operations. A staggering 750 million advertisements a month pass through the Indian centres before they are uploaded to Web sites across the world. From advertisement campaigns for Presidential elections in the US to selling UGG Boots in Australia, Google’s India employees play a role.

“The India centre started as a trickle when it was set up early 2005, and then it kept growing. Without the Indian operations, Google would not have been able to scale up from a $10.5-billion company in 2006 to $10.5 billion a quarter now,” Arijit Sarker, Director, India Operations, Google, told Business Line.

3 India offices

Google has three offices in India that support global business. While the Bangalore unit houses engineers working on products, Gurgaon and Hyderabad are where the online advertisement-related operations happen. The company has around 1,000 people across these three centres, which is about five per cent of Google’s overall employee base. This makes it the largest operation for the company outside the US.

Google has also set up a global operations centre in Dublin but it only supports advertising clients in non-English-speaking European countries.

“The India operation supports 750 million ads across 40 languages a month with the help of translation tools. Of the two million advertisers on Google’s platform globally, we support nearly 50 per cent of the clientele,” said Sarker.

While cost benefit was one of the initial factors for making India a hub for the global operations, over the past few years it has been more about getting the right kind of talent. The India operations team in involved in a gamut of activities related to managing the Internet giant’s advertising platform. This includes simple tasks such as responding to customer email queries to the more complex task of providing analytical insights to improve campaign performance.

Backed by some really sophisticated tools, employees at the Indian centre are able to advise advertisers in the US and the UK on how to get better returns from online advertising campaigns.

“We also have a user safety team that helps us keep bad players out through a mix of manual intervention and technological tools. The objective is to keep out misleading ads, malware, spammy Web sites and inappropriate content,” said Sarker. In 2011 alone, Google took down 1.5 lakh ads that were selling counterfeit products.

Scouts for talent

To do this job, Google scouts for talent in graduate colleges such as St Stephens and Presidency. “We hire mostly graduates who have the passion for Internet and analytical abilities,” said Sarker.

But unlike back-office or knowledge process outsourcing firms in the country, Google does not hire a lot. “We look at it as a combination of people and technology rather than through people alone. Our philosophy is to have a few good employees with good compensation but with a challenging target,” Sarker said, adding that Google’s India operations should not be termed KPO or BPO. “It’s an internal competency centre. We own processes that are done only in India,” he said.

But the huge challenge for Google would be to scale up more as the Internet becomes more and more relevant for advertisers. It also faces competition from other players such as Facebook and Microsoft, which are also eyeing a big piece of the online advertising space.

According to Sarker, the role of Google’s Indian operations will only get enhanced going forward. “The expectation is to grow on existing competency and at the same time broadbase the skillset to build on new areas. We will continue to scale up,” he said.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 24, 2012)
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