Google India has reaffirmed its commitment to digitally empower India’s 51-million strong community of small and medium businesses with the announcement of Digital Unlocked, a skills training program to empower thousands of Indian SMBs with essential digital skills that will enable them to log into the Internet and start using it to power their businesses. CEO Sundar Pichai made the announcement while speaking to representatives of hundreds of small and medium businesses from across the country at an event in New Delhi on Wednesday. He talked to them about the benefits of the web and of digital technology.
“The Internet is a powerful equalizer and we are motivated to bring the benefits of information and technology to as many people as possible. Building for everyone and making the internet available to as many people as possible is at the heart and core of what we do. And, we do this by investing in open ecosystems”, Pichai said in his address.
Referring specifically to small and medium businesses, he added that the Internet and digital technology will be the engine of growth for the Indian economy. “Today, anyone can become an entrepreneur, a developer, or a creator even, but it is important that they have the right tools and skills to digitize. We believe it is important for us to invest in training and equipping these individuals and small businesses to accelerate their journey of growth”, he said.
Setting the context for the initiative, Google unveiled a joint research study with KPMG titled ‘Impact of internet and digitization on SMBs in India’. The study reiterates that 68 per cent of the 51 million Indian SMBs are offline. Underscoring the macro-economic impact of the Internet, the research states that rising penetration and greater uptake for digital by SMBs could help increase their contribution to India’s GDP by 10 percentage points, taking it up to 46-48 per cent by the year 2020. The study shows how profits of digitally engaged SMBs grow twice as fast as those that are offline. Likewise, it claims that digitally engaged businesses are able to grow their customer base significantly with 52 per cent catering to customers beyond their home city versus only 29 per cent offline SMBs.
The report cites a lack of understanding of the benefits of digital technology and technical skills as the essential reasons for small businesses being offline.
Digital Unlocked aims to address this very gap. “With Digital Unlocked, Google will see to it that every single small business in India that wants to go digital has access to quality training. In keeping with the varied learning needs of millions of businesses in India, we have built this program across online, offline and mobile platforms. Offline training is being conducted in partnership with FICCI and over the next three years, 5,000 workshops will be held across 40 Indian cities. Online training comprises a set of 90 self-paced video tutorials curated specifically for India and is available free of charge at g.co/digitalunlocked. The tutorials cover a comprehensive set of topics ranging from building a web presence and driving online growth to reaching customers over mobile and video. The trainings are certified by Google, Indian School of Business and FICCI,” said Pichai.
On the occasion, Google also previewed My Business Websites, an easy-to-use offering to help small and medium businesses have a rich, mobile, optimised digital presence, to be launched later this year. This new feature will provide simple, templated, editable websites for small businesses created from their data and photos on Google Maps. My Business Websites will be available in English, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Kannada and Malayalam.
Further, for India’s mobile-first audience, Google has launched Primer, a free mobile app uniquely designed to teach digital marketing skills in a quick, easy and interactive way. Primer is available for download through Google Play and iOS app store. Primer also works offline and is currently available in English and Hindi, with its Tamil, Telugu and Marathi versions coming out shortly.
Several small businesses that have leveraged Google’s products and technologies were also present at the event.
Walnut, Go Co-op and Maganlal Dresswalla – three small businesses that have leveraged Google’s products and technologies – shared their journey to digital using Google offerings including Google My Business, Google AdWords as well as the Google Cloud platforms.
The announcement today is a continuation of Google’s efforts to support Digital India. Last year, Google had launched Google My Business, a program aimed at helping small and medium businesses get an online presence on Google Search and Google Maps without having to invest in a website or domain. Over 8 million Indian SMBs are already on these platforms, with thousands more logging on every month.