Things Pichai will pitch for this India visit

Varun Agarwal Mumbai | Updated on January 22, 2018

Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Scaling up Google’s India ops and thrust on Digital India projects on agenda

Sundararajan Pichai’s last visit to India, in September 2014, was about Android One — a project aimed at enabling users have access to standard smartphones at lower costs.

Just over a year later, Pichai returns to the country as the CEO of Google with two clear pitches — scale up existing operations in India and hasten the implementation of Google’s Digital India projects, including the recently announced Wi-Fi hotspots at railway stations.

Pichai is expected to announce fresh investments in enhancing Google’s existing capabilities in India which are likely to include product development aimed at making Internet accessible to a larger number of new users in the country.

According to sources in the IT Ministry, the Google CEO is also expected to lay thrust on “Indic web” to make Internet content available in more Indian languages.

Broadband access

According to sources close to the company, Pichai is expected to meet several functionaries, including Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, to seek faster implementation of projects under the Digital India initiative. Google has proposed several schemes under this aimed at improving broadband access. The most recently announced initiative to connect 500 Railway stations is facing procedural delays, including procurement of equipment.

“Although the project is largely on track, there are glitches that need to be ironed out. Pichai is likely to raise this with the Railway Minister,” said a source,

Two other initiatives Pichai will be keen to get quick approvals for include the Loon project and Google Fiber. 

Both these projects are stuck for various reasons. The Loon project has not got the go ahead because there is a perception within the telecom ministry that it will lead to interference with cellular transmissions.

While Google Fiber aims to roll out a fibre network in a small area as a showcase project, the Loon project wants to experiment with balloons hovering 20 mm above the earth to offer Internet connectivity.

On the regulatory side, Google is facing a scrutiny by the Competition Commission of India on allegations of anti-competitive practices. If the CCI upholds the allegations, the company may have to pay penalties and also be forced to change its revenue generating platform.

Pichai will also be aware of the threat posed by rivals like Facebook who have launched projects such as to make inroads into the Indian user base.

A year after the Android One project was launched, experts and analysts have termed it a damp squib.

Pichai will be hoping that his first visit to India as the CEO of Google will be much more productive.

Published on December 13, 2015

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