During the Google For India event for 2020, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will invest INR 75,000 Cr or approximately $10 Bn under the Google For India Digitisation Fund for the Indian tech and startup ecosystem. The fund will be invested in businesses, social impact projects and towards supporting the Indian government’s digitisation efforts over the next 5-7 years.
Pichai added that the fund will invest through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments.
Calling the fund a reflection of its confidence in the future of India’s digital economy, the company said the fund would go towards four primary areas:
- Enabling affordable internet access and information for Indians in Indian languages
- Building new products and services that are relevant to India’s unique needs and challenges
- Empowering businesses in their digital transformation journey
- Leveraging technology and AI for social good in areas like health, education, and agriculture
Google did not reveal how it would be releasing these funds or any commitment per year. It has just announced the corpus and the target areas at the moment.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he had an interaction with Google and Alphabet CEO, Sundar Pichai, discussing the company’s work in India’s digital economy.
Taking to Twitter, Modi said, “I spoke about the new work culture that is emerging in the times of Covid-19. We discussed the challenges the global pandemic has brought to areas such as sports. We also talked about the importance of data security and cyber safety. I was delighted to know more about the efforts of Google in several sectors, be it in education, learning, Digital India, furthering digital payments and more.”
In response to Modi’s tweets, Pichai tweeted, “Thank you for your time, PM @narendramodi – very optimistic about your vision for Digital India and excited to continue our work towards it. Later today we’ll share our next steps on that journey at #GoogleForIndia.”
In further announcements made during the live virtual event, Google announced a partnership with state-broadcaster Prasar Bharti for the creation of an edutainment series on small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India, who’ve found success since adopting digital solutions for their business needs.
Google also said that it had partnered with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for enabling more than 1 Mn teachers across the country to deliver blended learning to students through a mix of G Suite products such as Google Meets, Google Classrooms, and Read Along, among others. Keeping the disruption to education due to the Covid-19 pandemic in mind, the company also announced a $1 Mn grant for the Kaivalya Education Foundation, to train more than 700,000 teachers to deliver virtual education for students from low-income communities.
Google’s massive bet on the Indian digital economy and startup ecosystem comes at a time when Indian startups are facing a financial crunch due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown. According to a recent report by Datalabs by Inc42, the average percentage of layoffs across Indian startups is 22%. Moreover, even celebrated game-changers for India’s startup economy, unicorns such as Ola, Swiggy, Curefit, Zomato have all shed employees in chunks. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as, except Ola, these companies’ losses have expanded over the past fiscal year (FY 2018 to FY2019) by 7.3x for Zomato, 6.1x for Swiggy and 2.5x for Curefit.