While India happens to be one of the biggest internet markets in the world, much still needs to be done to bring over a large section of Indian population to the web. “Today, India has over 350 million internet users. By 2020, we will have over 600 million internet users,” said Rajan Anandan, Vice President of Google, South East Asia & India.
Speaking at an event organised by Google India on the company’s 18th birth anniversary, Anandan pointed out that growth in internet usage was being propelled by smartphones with over 200 million internet users coming online through them.
In the next 3-4 years, India is poised to almost double its internet population. However, as per Anandan, the journey to add another 300 million internet users would not be easy. A large number of such people don’t speak English and come from a rural background.
But Google India seemed committed to “make sure that the widest number of Indians have access to the internet and make the internet useful for every single Indian” as they made a series of announcements pertaining to product launches in New Delhi.
Since data affordability remains an acute concern for several Indian internet users, Google has enabled data saving features on its web browser Google Chrome. Besides that, Google would also be partnering with others to roll out a WiFi platform called Google Station. This project has been inspired by the success that Google achieved after tying up with Indian Railways and RailTel to “provide public WiFi at railway stations in India”.
Anandan claimed that the upcoming Indian internet users would like to access internet in their local languages to fulfil their needs. “Local language users will form a majority of the online population in India,” he said. In the last 18 months, Google observed a staggering 10X growth in local language search queries.
To tap in such a huge audience comprising of local language users, Google’s messaging platform Allo would now provide Google Assistant services in Hindi. The technology giant has been working tirelessly to improve Hindi speech recognition during voice searches. “Making internet accessible is our core job at Google,” said John Giannandrea, Senior Vice President, Search.
Google has provided users with the option to type in eleven Indic languages using its special keyboard features and there has been a 45% increase in Hindi speech recognition, he added. But the challenge before Google would be to manage the demand-supply dynamics. According to Google executives, Hindi content consumption is five times higher than English but only 0.1% of Indian websites are non-English.
A brand new video app named YouTube Go was also launched on the occasion. The “offline first” app is premised on the experiences of Indian users and would work towards ensuring video view-ability while maintaining cost effectiveness. It would allow users to “schedule videos to be saved offline later at off-peak times when there’s more bandwidth so data is faster and cheaper”.
Caesar Sengupta, Vice President, Next Billion Users, mentioned that the new set of initiatives was aimed towards all kinds of users regardless of their devices, networks, languages or places of residence. “By building products and services for these users, we are actually preparing ourselves for how the world will use mobile technology in the days to come,” he said.