Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday said the search giant will invest $10 billion on initiatives in India over the next five to seven years, in an effort to grow the company’s business in a fast growing market.
The project, called the Google For India Digitization Fund, commits the search giant to partnering with other companies in the country, as well as investing in its infrastructure, operations, ecosystem and startup scene.
“This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Pichai said during an online event announcing the fund.
The investment will focus on four areas, said Pichai, who was born in India and immigrated to the US to attend Stanford University. The initiative will use Google’s muscle in artificial intelligence to advance areas like health, education and agriculture. It will allow Indians to use digital services in their own language, including Hindi, Tamil and Punjabi. The investment will also aim to empower entrepreneurs to build new products for people’s local needs, as well as help existing businesses with digitization efforts.
The announcement comes as India has become a major focus for Silicon Valley giants. The country has a population of more than 1 billion, with about half of its people not yet online. In April, Facebook announced a $5.7 billion investment in India telecom giant Jio Platforms. The social network hopes to use its WhatsApp messaging service, which has more than 400 million users in India, to let people make digital payments at Jio-owned stores.
For Google and Facebook, investments in India are crucial as they try to get footholds in the world’s emerging markets. Helping people to get online is good for Google’s business. The more people that are connected to the internet, the more people Google can persuade to use its services, like search, maps and YouTube.
Google has already made efforts to target users in India. In 2014, the company announced partnerships with handset makers in India and other emerging markets to help tailor its Android mobile operating system to lower-end hardware. Google, however, evolved the program three years later to focus on security updates and include mid- and high-end smartphones. The company has also created versions of apps including YouTube and Google Maps that use up less data, for people with limited internet access.