NEW DELHI: The Indian government’s move to introduce data localisation across its policies has pitted global technology giants likeand Facebook against local companies. But the flow of cross-border data is as important for the global ambitions of companies from India as it is for Silicon Valley giants, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of the $136-billion internet giant, Google, told TOI at its Mountain View headquarters. Excerpts:
Earlier this year, you said that the aim is to move from finding answers to helping people get things done. How does this change Google’s business, especially in India?
In India, during monsoons intrying to find the best way back home, you are typing in— we help you complete it in the right language, or talk to Google Assistant in Hindi or any other local language. It could be bigger moments like the work we are doing to detect diabetic retinopathy. That’s the framework with which we approach everything. As a part of that, our business models will evolve. Some of them will be ad-supported. Some could be transaction-based. Currently, we offerin a premium model. We always offered our G-suite as a subscription to companies. So, we will continue to explore a mix of models.
How surprised are you with Google Pay’s growth?
We are so excited about Google Pay, and it could be a model for how we could approach more products over time. It is an opportunity that we saw where we could build it first in India, given the country’s leadership in digital payments and UPI (Unified Payments Interface) framework. We wanted to contribute to it. As a company, we invested significantly in Google Pay and are pleased to be part of that story. We will bring it outside India to other places as well.
What shift is Google seeing in its ad revenues in India?
India is YouTube’s largest market and definitely the response has been very strong. When I look at my use case and ability to find old Bollywood songs or go back and find clips ofwhich I never saw on TV — it is a powerful platform, and in India people use it to teach themselves new skills. It is also an export market for Indian small content creators and businesses. There are 1,200 creators with over 1 million subscribers in India. Like Google Pay, India will be one of the leading markets for YouTube and there will be learnings from India which we can apply elsewhere.
India’s government is pushing for limitations on cross-border flow of data. Also, there’s talk of limiting the market share in UPI…
We share and understand the concerns the government has over protecting the privacy and security of citizens. I think it is important. At Google, we have always viewed the privacy and security of our users as a fundamental value, so we understand that. We think there are areas where there may be right things to be done that way, but you have to balance with benefits we all get from a shared internet, which works globally.
As an example, Indian companies expect India to be at the forefront of technology. I think Indian companies will make big strides — going global. So, being able to have frameworks by which they are able to take advantage of that. What is most important is that we think these things through with the benefit of Indian users and citizens in India. As part of that, we plan to engage constructively and we will always comply with local laws.
How significantly do you think it can impact business?
Depends on the details and we will work through the implementations. Our goal would be to help arrive at something that doesn’t burden the users but protects their security and privacy. It’s a balance that we all need to get right.
Google recently said that it is prioritising original reporting in its search results. How hard is it to do that?
That is extremely important in journalism as it is extremely hard work that goes into original reporting. We are just doing deeper work to help surface what we identify is original reporting that is based on a lot of signals, then flowing that into our search rate guidelines and reflecting it so we can better rank them higher. We have done extra effort to tease out original reporting better than before.
(The writer was in Mountain View at the invitation of Google)