At today’s “Google for India” event in Delhi, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and a team of Google product heads, many of them from US, outlined the company’s strategy for bringing more Indians online and giving them a great experience when they get there. The announcements ranged from a January launch date for free WiFi in Railtel stations to new training programs for two million new Android developers over the next three years that make it easier for Indian developers to build solutions to local problems.
At today’s event, Sunder Pichai showed that he wants to do lot of things for India when he conclued his address and said, ” India has given a lot to me and to Google and in return we have to give back a lot more to India.”
“Mobile has proven to be a great equalizer, giving access to computing to a billion more people and counting. But there are fundamental questions around how to ensure a truly inclusive, open Internet for everyone,” said Pichai. “We are here to talk about our journey — about where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we are going to help everyone get as much from the Internet as you and I have.”
Pichai laid out Google’s three-step approach to promoting the Internet in India. First, Google aims to give people in India and other developing countries better access to the full Internet through better connectivity and high-quality software.
For this, Google is working with Indian Railways and Railtel to launch RailWire Wifi, providing free WiFi in train stations. Currently, trials are going on in Mumbai Central railway station and this station will be the first to go online in January 2016, with 100 more stations on the way in due course of time. Marian Croak, Vice-President of Access Strategy & Emerging Markets, said, “Railways are the backbone of Indian transportation and run through the heart of almost every city, town, and village uniting the country. These lines connect India, and working as partners, Google and RailTel will connect India along digital lines as well.”
Secondly, Google is making Google products work better for Indians. The “lighter” version of Search results and webpages have been a success, with much faster loading times and increased traffic for publishers. Google has created a new virtual keyboard that makes it easy to type in 11 Indian languages.
Google recently launched a feature in Google Maps called Offline Maps that allows real-time navigation of roads and searches for locations without a data connection. Jen Fitzpatrick, Vice-President of Product Management for Google Maps, said, “Offline Maps is a feature we expect to be useful around the world, and countries like India will truly benefit when it comes to accessing Google Maps with expensive, slow or limited connectivity. According to Google, India is one of the top five countries that has the most people using Offline Maps today.
Google is also expanding its program in collaboation with Tata Trusts to connect women of rural India through a fleet of Internet bikes. So far this program has reached a 1,000 villages and Google aim to cover 3 lakh villages nationwide within three years.
Last year YouTube launched an offline feature in India to help people watch videos without a connection as India has serious issues of connectivity especially in rural and remote areas. At the event, Eyal Manor, Vice-President of Engineering for YouTube, announced an additional feature that will let videos buffer while they are paused for those on limited bandwidth. Manor said, “We believe that every person should be able to experience YouTube at its best: in high quality, with few delays and limited buffering.”
Google also has good news for cricke crazy fans in India and overseas. Google announced that staring with next year’s IPL tournament, it will be improving its cricket coverage with realtime scores and video highlights.
In the first quarter of 2016, Google will release a feature called Tap to Translate that allows the instant translation of any text on the Android phone. Caesar Sengupta, Vice-President for Google’s Next Billion initiatives, said, “Our most active users in India translate between Hindi and English multiple times a day, spending lots of time copying messages from friends or colleagues, translating them, writing responses, translating their responses, and then pasting them back into an app. With Tap to Translate you can copy text anywhere on your Android phone and instantly get the translation, right then and there — without ever leaving the app. No more copy/paste, no more app switching, just instant translations.”
Thirdly, Google announced a program to train two million new Android developers over the next three years by working closely with more than 30 universities across the country in partnership with the National Skill Development Corporation. Google also announced its plan to expand its Hyderabad campus and hiring more people.
The Chromebit made by Asus, a small device that turns a monitor into a computer, will be available in India starting in January at Rs. 7,999, meant to help boost computing in the education sector.
To open the event, Rajan Anandan, Vice President of Google in India and Southeast Asia, helped explain both the promises and challenges of bringing the country online. “By 2018, more than 500M users will be online in India, from all 29 states, speaking over 23 languages. But in 2020, over 30% 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,” Anandan said.