Google commits $10 billion to accelerate digitization in India

Google will invest $10 billion in India over the next five to seven years with the aim of consolidating its position in the digital ecosystem of the world’s fifth-largest economy that is emerging as a battleground for global internet giants.

Alphabet Inc-owned Google’s outlay for India nearly double the $5.7 billion investment made by rival Facebook in the digital platform of India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries in April will be deployed through a mix of investments and partnerships, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai told ET in an exclusive interview on Monday morning.

Separately, Pichai also interacted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday through videoconferencing. Pichai briefed the prime minister about the efforts of Google to help spread awareness and provide information about Covid-19.

Modi pitched the idea of virtual labs that can be used by students as well as farmers while Pichai briefed him about new products and initiatives by Google in the country such as the launch of AI Research Lab in Bengaluru. They also discussed data security, privacy, and cyber-attacks.

Pichai neither denied nor confirmed reports of Google’s interest in Jio Platforms or a stake acquisition in Vodafone Idea. The country specific nature of the fund is the first of its kind in the world for Google. “We’ll do it (deploy funds) through a mix of equity investments in large Indian companies, startups, partnerships, as well as infrastructure investments such as data centres,” he said. The fund size, he said, provides an “opportunity to directly make larger investments” in bigger companies.

Google supported a multilateral solution for taxing digital services that is under discussion by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Pichai told Reuters in an interview. The OECD talks involve over 100 countries on a major rewrite of global tax rules to bring them up to date for the digital era, but they have so far not produced results as the negotiations have been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. The US has already initiated investigations of digital services taxes adopted or being considered by countries such as France, India and Turkey, saying these discriminate against US tech firms.

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