Open environments tend to breed the best competitors, feels Google’s Rajan Anandan

Some of India’s most successful entrepreneurs may be seeking protectionist measures and competitive advantage over foreign rivals operating in the country in the form of local government regulation, but Google’s go-to person in India Rajan Anandan cuts across the popular narrative with an offbeat analogy.

“Nobody wants to win the Karnataka finals – everybody aims for an Olympic gold,” he starts off. “Open environments tend to breed the best competitors and create the perfect setting for companies to differentiate themselves and grow,” he adds.

For the Google India & SE Asia VP, TCSBSE -0.12 % stands out in the deluge of tech companies that have come up in the country in the last few decades precisely because of its global nature. “With a whopping $80 billion figure, its market cap is bigger than that of Twitter, Airbnb, LinkedIn and Snapchat put together – a milestone it has crossed only because it operates globally,” he says.

In attendance at the first TiE Global Summit in Delhi, Anandan also spoke about the need for indigenous startups to focus more on the next set of internet users in India. “India has the second largest internet user base in the world and that has thrown up a lot of business opportunities for startups, which they have leveraged up until now. But the time is ripe for these companies to look beyond the first 100 million internet users and focus on the emerging set of people going digital in India,”  ..

Highly educated and equipped with a reasonable disposable income, Anandan dubs this group as ‘India 1’. “With a primary focus on India 1, most startups today are simply aping those that emerge from the Valley or developed parts of China, but there is no standing rule that what works in these places will create the same kind of impact in India,” he says. “With a population of 1.3 billion people, these companies have not even scratched the surface of the business opportunities that India has on offer,” he added.

Calling the next 200 to 300 million internet users as ‘India 2’ and beyond that as simply ‘India 3’, Anandan feels that addressing core challenges of these two groups – which will grow to 600 million connected users by 2020 – is where the opportunity for the future lies. “Think of the large new businesses you can build once you have 600 million connected users!” exclaims Anandan. “In line with this, Google’s main focus is on getting the next billion users online,” he says.

According to Anandan, India has many sectors with massive unmet needs, which includes financial services, agriculture, and sanitation. “The first among these sectors that are successfully looking beyond the first 100 million internet users are digital payments,” he says. “In fact, India will have the most advanced digital payment ecosystem in the world in the next five years,” he adds.
The company plans to approach this by firstly creating affordable access. “Mobile data was almost unaffordable six months ago, but has become more inclusive now,” says Anandan. Google plans to ride this momentum using pervasive high-speed WiFi networks with its partnership wit Indian Railways.
“We have already covered 90 large railway stations in just 11 months, tapping into 4.5 million Indians who use these services,” says Anandan. “With this initiative, we are seeing nearly 15,000 new users get on to the web for the first time every single day and that is no mean feat,” he adds. By the end of 2018, the company plans to cover 400 stations across the length and breadth of the country.
Google is also recognising the value of vernacular languages in the space of internet penetration in India. “Today, the Android keyboard has 11 languages. We are also tapping into the rural market in India and aim to reach out to 300,000 villages by 2018-end. This exercise has also given us deep insights into what these next million users really want,” he concludes.

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