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CEO Pichai says Google will invest US$10b in India

Sundar Pichai said the outbreak of the coronavirus has made clear the importance of technology for conducting business and for connecting with friends and family.

[CALIFORNIA] Google said it plans to spend US$10 billion over the next five to seven years to help accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in India.

Sundar Pichai, who was born in the country and is now chief executive officer of parent Alphabet, made the announcement at the annual Google for India event via video conference. He said the outbreak of the coronavirus has made clear the importance of technology for conducting business and for connecting with friends and family.

"This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy," he said of the India Digitization Fund.

The US$10 billion will be invested in partnerships, operations, infrastructure, the digital ecosystem and equity investments. Google said the effort will focus on several key areas.

These include enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, including Hindi, Tamil and Punjabi and building new products and services that are relevant to India's unique needs.

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The effort will also empower businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation and leverage technology and artificial intelligence for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture.

Google, founded in 1998 in Silicon Valley, entered India six years later with offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Its focus at the time was search services to help people find relevant information on everything from Bollywood news to cricket scores, Mr Pichai said.

The India business has since grown into one of the company's most important. The country now has more than 500 million internet users, second only to China, with growth that has drawn all the American technology giants.

The US search giant has show signs of struggling in other markets in recent months. In April, Mr Pichai told employees in an email that Alphabet would slow hiring for the remainder of the year as it battled an advertising slowdown from the coronavirus.

"The entire global economy is hurting, and Google and Alphabet are not immune to the effects of this global pandemic," he wrote.

This month, Google abandoned plans to offer a new cloud service in China and other politically sensitive countries due in part due to concerns over geopolitical tensions and the pandemic, Bloomberg News reported.

Meanwhile, India has seen a surge of foreign interest in its digital economy. In the past few months, investors including Facebook, Qualcomm and Intel have put about US$16 billion in the digital services unit of India's largest conglomerate, the retail-to-telecom giant Reliance Industries.


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