Mumbai // Google plans to get more Indians online as the country offers huge scope for growth, its chief executive Sundar Pichai said on his first visit to the country in his new role.
As part of its strategy, the internet search giant is partnering with the Indian government to launch free Wi-Fi at railway stations in India next month, with the aim of bringing connectivity to 100 stations next year.
The company announced a target of training two million new Android developers in the country over the next three years and plans to build a new campus in Hyderabad. It is also trying to push its Loon project into India, which would involve floating balloons over remote rural areas of the country to provide internet connectivity.
“There are fundamental questions around how to ensure a truly inclusive, open internet for everyone,” Chennai-born Mr Pichai said in New Delhi.
Google has identified India as one of its most important markets, and Mr Pichai said that the company was focusing on “how we build products for the next billion Indian users yet to come online”.
During Mr Pichai’s two-day trip to India, the Google head will be the latest top technology executive to and meet the prime minister Narendra Modi, following recent visits by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and the Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.
The number of internet users in India is expected to reach 402 million by the end of this year, which would mean that India would surpass the United States to have the second-largest number of internet users in the world, with only China ahead, at more than 600 million users, according to a report released last month by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB International.
That would represent a growth of 49 per cent over last year for India, the report highlighted. With cheaper smartphones available in India, a rapidly growing number of Indians are gaining regular access to the internet through their mobiles.
“By 2018, more than 500 million users will be online in India, from all 29 states, speaking more than 23 languages,” said Rajan Anandan, the vice president of Google in India and South-east Asia. “But in 2020, more than 30 per cent of mobile internet will still be from 2G connections. Google has been on a long journey in India to build products that connect more people, regardless of cost, connectivity, language, gender or location.”
Google is striving to make its products more user-friendly for the Indian market. For example, it is launching a new virtual keyboard that makes it easy to type in 11 different Indian languages.
It has also launched an offline feature for Google Maps that allows access to map information without a data connection – with the Indian market in mind.
“Offline Maps is a feature we expect to be useful around the world, and countries such as India will truly benefit when it comes to accessing Google Maps with expensive, slow or limited connectivity,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, the vice president of product management for Google Maps. “In fact, India is one of the top five countries that has the most people using Offline Maps today.”
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