16 September, 2014

India to be test bed for Google's new initiatives

India will be the proving ground for many new initiatives by Google, the company's highest-profile Indian-origin executive said, highlighting the Internet giant's commitment to one of the world's biggest markets for technology. 

The Chennai-born Sundar Pichai launched cut-rate smartphones based on Google's Android One program tailored for India and likened the opportunities in this country to China, the world's second-largest economy.

"Like we are doing with Android One, we would want to do more such things India-specific. Just because of the scale and scope of the market," said Pichai, 42, a senior V-P who oversees the Chrome browser and apps. "You have seen what is happening in China, and you have seen how much investment has happened. I expect the same to happen for India and I expect Google to do the same."

At present, India contributes only a tiny fraction ($330 million) of Google's $55-billion revenue, but the country is all the more important because of the company's struggles in China. The USbased company has a minuscule share of the search engine market in the Middle Kingdom, and while its Android mobile operating system is popular, most apps are downloaded through third-party stores. "Soon we will be in that phase where it (India) is not just potential but a big market," said Pichai, pointing to the country's 500 million Internet users. "It is a big bet from our side. I think the thing that will really tip over is when I look at the numbers."

As an example of an India-specific initiative, Pichai, who reports to CEO and cofounder Larry Page, cited the launch of a service to make YouTube work even when there is no Internet connectivity. Pichai, who studied at IIT-Kharagpur, Stanford University and The Wharton School, began his career at Google in 2004.

He was the driving force behind Chrome, the browser which eventually became one of Google's most successful products. He then set out to build a whole ecosystem around Chrome — including Chromebooks (laptops running Chrome operating system) and applications that run on Chrome.