At the seventh edition of Google for India, Google announced a host of new product features and partnerships in the country. This underlined the tech giant’s focus on the “next billion users”, with product innovations meant to help new Internet users in India get easier access to information in Indian languages, and provide support to India’s small businesses.
BusinessLine spoke to Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and Vice-President, Google India, to understand the company’s key focus areas in India. Excerpts:
Its been nearly two years since you took over as
the country head of Google. How has the
journey been for you?
The last two years have been really energising because it has changed the way people were adopting digital technologies, both consumers and customers.
We have played the role of a catalyst in that digital transformation. For me, the journey in the last two years has been very energising and humbling, because you see the impact you have created as a technology company. I felt the same way when I was in Star; we were telling stories that were inspiring people, and now we are enabling lives at Google. We are working towards making the Internet helpful and safer for billions of Indians.
How did the faster adoption of digital tools during the pandemic translate for Google
in terms of business?
What changed dramatically is how children and families adopted the technology. And now, it has shifted from being used for pure entertainment to becoming a learning companion for children. Suddenly, people are using everything we offered from Google Meet to YouTube. Second, what changed is payments.
Now, you could use digital to pay. UPI has been a big game-changer. Both these things have been the driver of change for society and for Google and all our products.
Google announced has a
$10-billion investment in India, including investments in Jio.
What’s the future roadmap in utilising this fund?
From my point of view, it is about finding the right partnerships. To me, the most important commitment we made to India was using technology to drive big impact in the four focus areas. The commitments we made is through partnerships. We do think the faster we do it, the better, but finding the right partnerships and ensuring we scale them up.
One of the important things we have done is put people on the ground to support this big leap.
And we have doubled our manpower or the number of Google employees in India between the beginning of 2020 to now, and we are likely to double those in the next two years again.
We are putting high-quality engineering talent to support the challenges and opportunities we talked about. I think, that really shows our commitment to how we are converting our ideas and investments into real things. I do think this pace of change we have never done before in India.
This is really showing that over the next 5-7 years, as we invest that money, we are creating the best value going to every user in this country by finding the right product answers or through partnerships finding the right outcome.
A lot of what you do look like CSR projects...how do you plan to scale it?
Earlier experiments could never be scaled up without digitisation. But now once you have done a good experiment, scaling happens faster. A great example is Google Pay or UPI. When it started nobody could have thought it will be doing 4 billion transactions a month in four years of time. We are saying it will be 30 billion transactions every month 24 months from now. I think in each of these experiments when we are able to do it right, our scaling up time is dramatically lower.
Indian app developers and start-ups have been very vocal about their disagreement on Google Playstore’s in-app commissions, despite the reduction to 15% announced recently.
What is your take on it?
These are very complex issues to solve and there’s no one solution. One solution we have done is today we charge 30 per cent to the regular businesses, and a few months back we announced our reduction to 15 per cent for all subscription-led businesses. That really brings down the margin to 15 per cent. These are some of the solutions we have done; now the real solution from here on will be far more customised because 99 per cent of people are not a part for this debate, for the rest 1 per cent we need to find not ‘one-size-fits-all solution’.
We are deeply engaged with the community and developers to solve it. This (the new commission system) is supposed to start from April 1, 2022; we still have time for a few months to get to that endpoint.
I think we have been having enough in-depth conversations going on. What we are committed to is to solve for solutions in a customised way rather than one size fits all.
In India, there’s a whole lot of regulation thats coming in PDP bill, there’s e-commerce rule, IT rules are already there. Are you concerned about regulations disrupting business?
In our conversations, we found the government to be very understanding. We need the regulation on data protection sooner than later. Because it is best to put those guardrails early on, we enable both sides, consumers and companies, to get the best of it, and companies to do most innovation in a very safe and thoughtful way. The reality is that tech companies will be under scrutiny. And that is going to happen more and more as we move forward. The only way is to have meaningful regulation in place, which gives everybody the comfort that's happening within the guardrails.
And let’s look at the intermediary liability bill. This put to rest a lot of concern that people might have had with respect to content. And, therefore, we complied with it. It has given everybody transparency to what consumers are seeing and what actions Google are doing. Regulation coming in quickly enough and meaningful enough will help create that environment of trust, because of transparency.
What about the regulation that has put a cap on market share on payment companies? Does’t it go against the objectives of financial inclusion?
That’s for the regulator to reconsider, to see whether that is right or not. I’m sure there are certain concerns. But I think as they will see financial inclusion is better served if you let market forces play as well, with enough competition, with enough quality being given to consumers. It is a learning journey for all of us. But I do think when you reflect back, India has been a pioneer in payments, financial inclusion transformation. I think it’s something that we should take pride in, while trying and resolve some of the points of differences that we have.
How does this all tie up in terms of revenue growth here in the market?
We’re taking a bet on India for the next decade. We are saying in the next 10 years the market will be very, very good. Currently, our strategy is and I think our commitment is to make the internet safer. To all our strategy as to how do we deliver a product and services, which are both helpful and safer. The business will come in, in two ways in this country. One is because we offer our products and services largely for free from consumers from advertising money. And it says the advertising market will grow over the next decade very dramatically. And second will come from partners and customers as we offer a technology solution, which we call Google Cloud to both big and large, small companies. I think on both sides. It’s an evolving market because it's a small market trade. But I think our bet is that let's do what is right for India. And in the next decade, it should become a really important market even from a revenue point of view.