Google for India event 2022: Google CEO Sundar Pichai also lauded India's startup ecosystem and said its sophistication was improving. "Startups in India are (growing) on a noticeable scale," Pichai said.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday took to the stage at the company's annual Google for India event in New Delhi, during which they announced their plan for the country going forward. This was the first Google for India event since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the event via livestream, Pichai stressed on the importance of an open and fair internet if India aims to be an export-based economy.
India has a 700 million-strong internet userbase, Google India Chief Sanjay Gupta said, adding that the country is on track to bringing a billion Indians online by 2025. He added that the country is one of the leading developers of mobile apps globally.
Pichai lauded India's startup ecosystem and said its sophistication was improving. "Startups in India are (growing) on a noticeable scale," Pichai said.
As of September 7, 2022, India is home to 107 unicorns collectively worth more than $340 billion. A November report by Morningstar suggested that 10 percent of all new unicorns are born in India.
Furthermore, Pichai said Google will invest more in women-led start-ups from its India Digitization Fund. He called upon the government to boost startups and help them scale across the country through favourable policies. The comments by Pichai come in the backdrop of India pushing hard on regulation such as the IT rules amendments and the draft data protection bill.
Pichai was joined by Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw, who said that the Digital India mission has helped develop India Stack over the last eight years.
"The UPI (Unified Payments Interface) payment system has been phenomenally successful," Vaishnaw said, adding that transactions worth 55 percent of the country's GDP are carried out through UPI.
Pichai praised the nation's digital payment system and referenced UPI in other countries across the world as an example of "incredibly opportunity".
Google plans on taking its UPI-based Google Pay feature and its flood forecasting feature to many other countries, cementing India's role as a trailblazer in upcoming technological development.
Speaking to the future of the country, Vaishnaw predicted that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a "very big role" in India's tech story. This developing technology could make a difference in multiple fields and sectors, the minister said.
Excited about its several possibilities, Pichai agreed with the minister and said that AI will, over time, touch every sector. "Our key mission is to make Google universally accessible, using AI to scale up languages," Pichai said.
The company launched Project Vaani, an initiative which aims to collect speech data from 773 districts in India to make information available in nearly 1,000 languages. They also promised a million dollar grant to IIT Madras for India's first ever Responsible AI centre.
Pichai warned, however, that with great power comes great responsibility. "Due to the incredible scale at which tech is progressing in the country, we need to establish responsible regulations and create an innovative framework. It needs to continue developing while balancing the safeguarding of its people," he said.
"India has a leadership role to play here, given the scale," Pichai said. "The balancing act is important for India."