#GoogleforIndia, is not merely a hashtag on Twitter, as the internet giant showed today how serious it is about making India a digital country. In a press briefing, Google Inc CEO Sunder Pichai said the company, through its newly launched division Google Capital, has set aside $20 million (Rs 133.7 crore) as grant to help startups grow their businesses in India. The startups selected by it will get $20,000 as cloud credit.
"The first hire outside US for Google Capital will be in India," said Pichai, who is on his first visit to India after taking over as CEO at the restructured Google in August.
Google Capital usually does late/ mature stage venture investment as seen in its investments in CommonFloor and Practo. In January 2015, online real estate platform, CommonFloor.com, received a new round of funding from Google Capital. This was Google Capital's third investment in Asia and second in India. The investment in CommonFloor was Google Capital's third investment in Asia. It had earlier funded Chennai-based enterprise software maker FreshDesk and China's InnoLight, an optical technology company.
In August, Practo Technologies Pvt Ltd raised $90 million in Series C funding from investors led by Chinese media and technology conglomerate Tencent Holdings Pvt Ltd. Google Capital also participated in that round.
With the introduction of these grants, it seems Google Capital is now looking to back startups in early stage.
And that's not the end of it. The company will help content creators with the official rollout of its production studio, YouTube Space, in conjunction with Whistling Woods International Institute in Mumbai. Pichai also added that for videos uploaded by Indian content creators on YouTube, over 60 per cent of views come from outside the country. "YouTube has come a long way in India, from people uploading short form videos to log format videos including mini-movies, web-series, etc.," said Pichai.
The internet giant is also working towards helping developers create better products and solutions. According to Pichai, the company will soon launch a training programme with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and 30 universities across the country to help 2 million developers better their skills.
Google, which currently has four offices in India including Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad, also plans to ramp up its engineering division. It plans to launch a campus in Hyderabad. Google currently employs 1500 people in India.
In January, the internet giant will launch a new device called Chromebit with Taiwan's Asus which turns a monitor into a computer. The device is being launched with the aim to boost computing in the education sector, claims Google.
As for its offerings for Indian consumers, to begin with Google is partnering with the Indian Railways and Railtel to launch RailWire Wi-Fi in its effort to provide free Wi-Fi in train stations. Access will be provided to 400 stations. "The task has already begun with a team setting up the system at Mumbai Central and we plan to bring Wi-Fi service to 100 stations by end of 2016," added the India-born CEO.
Pichai also spoke about Google building products for Indian consumers. The company has created a new virtual keyboard which allows one to type in 11 Indian languages. Moreover, Google recently launched a new feature called Offline Maps in Google Maps which allows real-time navigation of roads and locations without a data connection. "Offline Maps is a feature which is useful to people across the world. In fact, India is one of the top five countries that has the most people using the feature," said Jen Fitzpatrick, vice president, product management, Google Maps.
In case of its online video streaming platform, after launching the offline feature last year, Google this year, has launched a new feature allowing a video to buffer while it is paused for people on low bandwidth. "Every person should be able to experience YouTube at its best, in high quality and with few delays and limited buffering," said Eyal Manor, vice president, engineering, YouTube.
Google in the first quarter of 2016, will release a feature called, 'Tap to translate', allowing instant translation of any text on Android phones. "No more copy paste, no more app switching, just instant translation," added Caesar Sengupta, VP, Google â€“ Next Billion Initiatives.