Google is going to invest up to $10 billion in India over the next five to seven years, CEO Sundar Pichai announced today. The news came as part of Google’s annual Google for India event in which the search giant makes announcements specific to that market. This year’s headline is the launch of the Google for India Digitization Fund, which will distribute the $10 billion in investments of the next near-decade.
Pichai said that the fund will make money available for equity investment in local tech businesses, partnerships and infrastructure spending. They will be focused around four broad categories, including language-services (India has 22 officially-recognized local languages as well as English), helping Indian businesses embrace digitization, and tailoring products to suit India’s specific needs. The fourth involves the use of AI for “social good” in areas like “health, education and agriculture.”
Google for India has been a yearly event in the country since 2015, where the company often announces initiatives designed for the subcontinent. Last year, Google announced it would launch a new AI lab in Bengaluru as well as the launch of mobile payments there. The company has also rolled out free public WiFi at over 400 train stations (a program which has since been axed) and adding more Indian languages to its voice and search products.
We’ve seen a spate of big companies making big in-roads into the Indian market, which has been a long sought-after prize for western tech firms. Facebook invested close to $6 billion to buy a stake in Jio, the country’s biggest mobile network, Apple is opening its first store there in 2021 and even Samsung is offering digital tech support in the country. India certainly looks as if it’s going to be a big growth incubator in the future, with the World Economic Forum claiming that India could become the “next Silicon Valley.”
The investment comes at a fortuitous time for Google since India recently cracked down on technology services from China. India’s government has said it will invoke stringent rules on how stores and platforms operate (potentially to Amazon’s chagrin) in the country and recently banned TikTok and WeChat. There may also be greater conflict between Google and the local government after it began work on warrantless searches for user data in the country.