Google CEO Sundar Pichai is on tour in India for personal as well as professional reasons. Yesterday, on 4 January, he announced new solutions for small and medium businesses to bring them online. Google's aim is to bring a whopping 51 million such ventures in India online.
Pichai sounded upbeat about demonetisation and the UPI payment system. "This country has a chance to leapfrog some things other countries have struggled with," he said in an interview with the Times Of India. "We're doing it with cell phones instead of landlines. Similarly, in digital payments, the UPI stack in India is phenomenal. Something like that doesn't exist in most countries. I do think we have a unique opportunity. There is a lot more infrastructure here than people realize. The foundations have been set for digitizing India on the payment side as well."
Pichai even hinted that Google might be working on bringing the UPI stack to Android which caters to the largest user base in India if one includes smartphone users.
After that announcement, Pichai told the Economic Times in an interview that Google India is a completely Indian company.
"By definition to do that, you have to be in a global system where you can test yourself in a global marketplace and that's what will help you not just scale in India but beyond India," he explained. "So, the US has shown what a robust model looks like and that's the model I would espouse for. That's what I see in practice here. At Google, we think of ourselves as an Indian company when we are in India and act as one."
Pichai pointed out that many solutions developed by Google in India had gone on to make a mark at the global stage. The search giant introduced features such as YouTube Offline and Map Offline first in the Indian market and later rolled it out in other countries. It is going to launch another lightweight app, called YouTube Go, in India first.
It is clear that Google India is trying to go offline with ads, education programs, and WiFi hotspots to bring the country online and search for its next billion customers.
Pichai also highlighted the obstacles in applying AI to India. "Our ability to translate languages has been deeply affected by deep neural networks," he said. "When I look at India, the challenges we have, where most of India doesn't speak English and we have to get stuff working in other languages as well. If anything, it will be applicable to India than most other places because machine learning is tech assisting humans. And by definition, that will have a larger impact in India."
Google launched its chat app, Allo, with an ambitious new AI assistant called Google Assistant in September 2016 and India was the first country where it was rolled out. The company even introduced the Assistant in Hindi later in the year.