New Delhi | Pratyush Ranjan: Since it arrived in India in 2004, Google has launched several schemes and programmes for the country. The tech giant has now shifted its approach to 'India-first', launching schemes and programmes for MSMEs and start-ups and empowering the common people here.

In an exclusive interview with Jagran New Media's Executive Editor Pratyush Ranjan, Google India Head Sanjay Gupta spoke about how the tech giant has changed its approach to understand and solve the challenges faced by Indians. He also opened up about how the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the growth of the digital economy like never before and what challenges Google might face in the future.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Question 1: How Google is planning to build a safer internet for everyone. You mentioned the India Focus approach in your opening remarks in today's event. What does it actually mean?

Sanjay Gupta: We are in India since 2004. It's been more than 17 years. In the last five years, we have worked to increase internet services in India. Under this, we launched Google Pay. But I think when we look back, it's an 'India-focus' approach, we were focussing on India. What we have changed now is the 'India-first' approach. We believe that if we can solve the problems faced by the people of India then it would help solve issues and problems in other parts of the world as well. We launched some apps first in India and once they were successful here, we launched them globally. A few years ago, we had launched Google Bolo. Flood forecasting was started in India and now we are planning to take it globally. We are now focusing on the issues of India and for this, we are increasing our teams in India. In the next 2-3 years, we will double our teams in India, making products for India to solve the country's problems.

Question 2: Google is launching schemes and programmes for MSMEs and start-ups. What is it all about?

Sanjay Gupta: I think the most important thing is that India's growth in the next five years will be taken forward by start-ups and MSMEs. We have been committed to start-ups and developers for a long time through Play Store because that has been the driver and enabler in helping people start new businesses. Now what more we are doing is bringing the technology, platform and solutions which will help Bharat to come "online". We will have to take steps to ensure that more and more people are connected to the internet. For this, we will also have to make changes to JioPhone - smartphone launched by Google along with Reliance Phone. We also need to ensure that language is not a barrier while people use the internet. We are doing these to ensure that rural India is well connected with the internet and thus we are partnering with start-ups.

Jagran New Media's Executive Editor Pratyush Ranjan (L) with Google India Head Mr. Sanjay Gupta (R)

Question 3: How do you see the pandemic situation particularly in India resulted in the growth of the digital economy like never before? Is India going to rise above from here as well?

Sanjay Gupta: Pandemic has been very tough for all of us. So many people lost their lives. Many of us even lost our jobs and several people are still jobless. That is the tough part of the pandemic, but the silver lining is that because of the pandemic several people started using the internet. There are two big changes. Earlier, we used to tell our kids to avoid the internet, but today we ask them to use the internet to 'learn'. Internet is being used by all the members of a family and that is helping them 'learn'. Moreover, the internet is also being used by people to make payments. It means everything is possible through the internet. This is kind of a 'building block' for the future growth of India. This would be a 'game-changer' in the next five years. So, I agree with this that pandemic played a crucial role in the growth of the digital economy and this would be a game-changer.

Question 4: You also mentioned Google for India Digitisation Fund? Can you please elaborate and how common people/ small businesses can get help and support from this fund?

Sanjay Gupta: Digitisation Fund is one part of digitising India, that's a commitment we put money behind start-ups, innovators, etc. I think Google does many things to enable common people. For example, today we announced our collaboration with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to launch a USD 15 million financial assistance program for start-ups, MSMEs and women. Our commitment is that we will enable common people, especially women, to use the power of the internet for their own growth. One part is IDF but is only for start-ups, but there are other things as well for common people to use the internet. We are trying to touch everyone in India to enable this transformation.

Question 5: You mentioned the digital divide, what's the strategy to expand the internet touch base in rural India?

Sanjay Gupta: We are doing three things - provide people in rural areas with a smartphone and make it affordable. For this, we have collaborated with Jio. Second thing is to ensure that language or writing is not a barrier and people get services that will help them use the internet. And at last, there should be products and services for people to use the internet easily and to reduce the digital divide.

Question 6: According to you, what are the challenges and the opportunities there in India to drive the internet and digital economy growth from here.

Sanjay Gupta: I think this is the era in which India, in the next decade, will reach a different level. Whether you are in rural India or urban, people will get equal opportunities. I feel in this era, women, children, people from rural areas will get equal benefits. I feel technology will help solve the inequalities in India. Our most important commitment is that people are connected with the internet from wherever they are.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma