Aditi Srivastava

"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google

The announcement was made at Google for India 2016, an event held at Hyatt Regency, New Delhi on September 27, 2016, on the occasion of Google's 18th birthday.

Google, the popular search giant (founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin), turned 18 on September 27, 2016. To mark the birthday celebrations, the company, at the second edition of its signature event Google for India 2016, unveiled a slew of new products tailor-made for the Indian market including the rural one.

"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
The major announcements regarding the introduction of new products made at the day-long event which was organised at Hyatt Regency in New Delhi on September 27 included the YouTube Go, the Google Assistant in Hindi inside messaging app Allo, faster browsing for Google Play on 2G connections, as well as new, global platforms inspired by the needs of Indian users such as the Google Station WiFi platform, and new data-saving features in Google Chrome for mobile. The new products have been adapted for, and are aimed at expanding access to the internet, for users in India.

Keynote Session

"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
In the opening keynote speech, Rajan Anandan, vice-president, India and South-East Asia, Google, outlined the efforts by Google to give all Indians access to the internet. He talked about initiatives in India since the first Google for India event in December 2015, including the success of its WiFi offering in partnership with Railtel, and its efforts to overcome the gender divide by training women across rural India on how to access and use the internet.

Speaking at the event, Anandan said, "Our vision is to make India a global hub of innovation and produce high quality mobile developers who will build not just for India, but for the world." He also listed some figures related to the growth and development which India has experienced in the digital domain over the last one year as revealed by the ground-level research undertaken for the same.

Anandan revealed that India currently has 350 million internet users which will go up to 650 million by 2020. Not only this, the number of local language users for Google in the country will be 400 million by 2020 with a 10 times growth in local language queries on the search engine having been registered in the past eight months. Hindi content consumption has shown five times more growth while Hindi tab search on Google and local language content discovery in India until now stands at a meagre 0.1 per cent.

According to Rajan, Google aspires to make internet available to 800 million Indians in rural areas where one out of 10 Indian rural users is a woman.

In partnership with Tata Trusts, Google has already trained over a million women across 10 states in India under the project called Internet Saathi. These 'Internet Saathis' go on to train their neighbours and friends in nearby villages to access and use the internet. As part of the project, the first 300 million women in rural India have been trained in the use of the internet which translates to show its reach across 25,000 Indian villages over the course of last nine months.

Anandan also talked about Google's plans to train two million mobile developers on Android, revealing that over 1,20,000 students have already enrolled in the Android Fundamentals course, and by the next college semester, 2,00,000 engineering students will learn how to develop Android applications. Google is also funding the installation of Google Developers Codelabs at major State Technical Universities (STUs) in India.

The other initiatives which were mentioned in Anandan's keynote session include Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator, Google Cloud Platform, and Google Capital. He said that as part of the Google Capital initiative, the search giant has tied up with NASSCOM to help 10,000 Indian start-ups and invested 130 million rupees for the same.

The Next Billion Users

"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
The keynote session was followed by a talk on reaching and targetting the 'Next Billion Users' for Google by Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Next Billion Users. During the session, Sengupta outlined the three areas where Google is working to provide a better and more inclusive online experience for users in India: Access (connecting people to the internet), Platforms (letting people and developers share through and build upon the internet), and Products (providing better and more relevant Google experiences for Indians).

Defining the strategy, Sengupta said, "Our goal has not just been to help more Indians get online, but also to help Indians create the online experience they want; one that serves their needs and enables them to have an impact on the entire world. We have been thinking about how to build products and services for this wave of new users - products that work for any level of connectivity, in local Indian languages, and across the devices that are most frequently used in India."

Sengupta further said that every second three Indians are coming online in India and that these 'Next Billion Users' are different from the 'First Billion Users', in that the former are known to be mobile-only in terms of access to services and products.

To fulfil the intent of inclusivity, the company launched Google Maps Offline for Indian users along with having recently launched Google Duo, a simple video-calling app which can be downloaded from Google Play on WiFi as well as 3G data connection. The Google Duo app gives the user two options - Download Now and Wait for WiFi, with the intention to avoid data charges.

Inspired by the success of the partnership with RailTel and Indian Railways to provide WiFi at railway stations in India (which goes by the name of Rail Wire), with over 50 stations now providing high-quality internet to 3.5 million people each month, Sengupta announced a new WiFi platform called Google Station. This new platform will work with partners to roll out WiFi hotspots, offering carriers, system integrators (SIs), and venues an easy way to set up high-quality, user-friendly WiFi. This will provide more people in India and around the world the facility of fast, reliable, and safe WiFi in places where they spend time, like malls, transit stations, and cafes.

According to Sengupta, finding scalable solutions for developing WiFi hotspots is a challenge that faces Google right now as is also monetisation and configuring the WiFi in a user-friendly way.

Sengupta also announced fast browsing on Google Play for people on 2G data and other low-bandwidth connections. Fast browsing uses pre-loading on WiFi to load the most popular parts of Google Play quickly. And, when a user on a low-bandwidth connection chooses to install an app, Google Play will offer a new "Wait for WiFi" option where the app will only install when the phone next connects to WiFi. Fast browsing launches today as an experiment exclusively for Play users in India.

Google Search

"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
John Giannandrea, senior vice-president, Search, talked about the improved support provided for more Indian languages in Google products and the evolution of Search to meet the needs of mobile users. Commenting on the same, he opined that search queries from mobile in India are greater than desktop where the focus for Google lies in a four-point agenda - focus on language (development of Hindi search tab), working on Google Translate, Improvement of 'Tap To Translate' feature, and Switch between Hindi and English search results simultaneously.

In the new and improved version of the feature, Giannandrea noted that the Lite mode settings in Google Search is five times faster and consumes 90 per cent lesser data even as voice search in noisy environments is a success.

Google Allo and Google Duo

"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
The next speaker at Google for India 2016 was Amit Fulay, product lead, Google Duo and Google Allo, who announced that a preview of the Google Assistant will be launched in Hindi by the end of 2016 inside the brand new Allo messaging app which was launched on September 20 this year. The Google Assistant lets users have a conversation with Google, which can help them get things done.
"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
"The aim of launching Duo and Allo is to bring Google's technology closer to human interaction," said Fulay. He said that both the smart messaging app Allo, and the smart video calling app Duo will work smoothly on low bandwidth, as well as offer high quality videos. Google Allo comes with added security features such as the Incognito mode and encrypted messages along with a host of other features such as stickers and Smart Reply.

Google Chrome

"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
Rahul Roy Chowdhury, vice-president, Chrome, was the last speaker for the morning session of the Google for India 2016 event where he announced a group of tailored features for Chrome that make the web a better place for mobile users facing data constraints. Expressing his thoughts, Chowdhury shared, "The objective is to make Chrome known for three features - speed, security and simplicity. Since one billion monthly users visit Chrome on mobile, we want to move the web platform forward."
"India will have 400 million local language users by 2020": Rajan Anandan, VP, India and South-East Asia, Google
He further said that 337 TB of data is saved by Indian users every week and that the new features can be accessed on Chrome Beta as of now.

Speaking on how to improve Chrome for India, he listed data saving, offline capabilities and content discovery as the three key areas which are being worked upon.

Among the update features, Data Saver mode reduces the amount of data Chrome uses on Android mobile devices, computers, and Chromebooks. It will now support MP4 videos, saving up to over two-thirds (67 per cent) of video data. Chrome on Android will now also automatically optimise pages to their essentials when 2G-like networks are detected. These simplified pages load up to 2X faster, saving more than 90 per cent of data usage.

Chrome on Android's new Download feature will now allow users to save web pages, videos, music, or pictures. Downloaded items can be easily accessed in Chrome's new downloads tab, even when offline. Also, if users go offline before the download is complete, the process will automatically resume next time they're connected.

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