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19 Jun 2017
Google VP Rajan Anandan Outlines Company’s Vision and Plans at Inspiration Series Talk

 Rajan Anandan

Rajan Anandan, Vice President, South East Asia and India, Google held his audience at the Inspiration Series event on June 13 spellbound as he unveiled the vision, future plans and approach to business of the company that revolutionised the way the Internet is used across the world. The talk at the MCA in BKC, Mumbai was part of the ongoing Inspiration Series organised by Palanpur Online and Palanpur Samaj Kendra.

In a refreshingly different introduction to the speaker, Bobby (Ashish) Kothari of Jewelex and Tanmay Shah of Imaginarium did a rapid fire interview of the speaker that captured his world view and attitude to perfection. Anandan shared some thoughtful insights such as “you learn more from things that don’t go well”, “time is one of the most precious things, use it to the maximum and get the most of each day”, “move quickly, change and learn – if you are not moving, you are not learning” and “we undervalue time – wish I could be 25 and start all over again”.

This was followed by a more formal introduction of the speaker by Rohit Kothari of Gee Cee Investments, who outlined his remarkable career graph and the prestigious companies he had worked for prior to joining Google.
Anandan then gave the audience a bird’s eye view of how Google perceives the emerging internet landscape in India and some of the projects that the company is currently undertaking or has planned in the near future. 

 Panel Discussion

“Our vision is to ‘Connect every Indian to the Internet’,” Anandan began, adding that Google hoped to achieve this by 2030. In a lighter vein he said that there may still be some homes without basic facilities like toilets, but given the spread of smart phones and the recent upgrading of the basic infrastructure by mobile companies, every Indian could still be linked to the Net.

Pinpointing the launch of Jio as a turning point for the mobile telecom industry, he said the attractive deal not only brought in a number of new users, but also prompted other telecom players to enhance their technology. There had been a boom in smart phone and net usage as a result, Anandan said. “Today, there are 400 million Internet users in the country, and 300 million connect through smart phones.” Google expects these numbers to rise to 650 mn and 500 mn respectively by 2020.

Focusing on some of the other aspects of the changes in the usage of the Internet in India in recent years, Anandan pointed to the increasing use of video content thanks to the better upload speeds, and the massive rise in the number of users from non-English speaking backgrounds. He said that there had been a 300% rise in growth in watchtime year-on-year with 65% of the consumption being from mobile, and also pointed to the fact that on a popular news aggregation App like Dailyhunt, the top five languages used are Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Marathi and Bengali, with English ranking at No 6.
Turning to E-commerce, Anandan pointed out that though it has increased and become hugely popular, the real potential is massive – it will rise from $10 billion today to $200 billion by 2025, and with an expected 300% rise in online buyers, it will account for nearly 25% of total organised retail by 2020. “Digital payments are at an inflection point,” Anandan noted, stating that by 2023, 50% of all consumer payment transactions will be non-cash.
Explaining the broad features of the India Stack, a digital interface and platform being developed in association with various projects of the government, Anandan said it would trigger massive innovations in many fields. The vast amounts of data that is collected through this and other initiatives would also give India an edge in a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) was assuming increasing importance.
Anandan also pointed out that digitisation and e-commerce till now has largely aimed at enhancing efficiency of delivering comforts to the top 100 million of India’s population (India 1, largely educated, mostly English speaking and living in metros or larger cities). However, he said, the real boom would come with applications that meet the needs of the next segment i.e. 100-300 million (India 2 or the new opportunity Internet users).

 A view of the auudience

Huge businesses could be built with the digitisation of sectors like Financial Inclusion, Agriculture, Public Transport, Healthcare, Education or Hygiene & Sanitation for the population that falls in India 2. He cited the examples of Hello English, the largest English language training platform in India with 14 million learners using the App of whom about one million are active daily, and EMB, which offered various types of services to farmers on a ‘pay-by-use’ basis using digital Apps.

Finally, he briefly introduced two of the large Internet based programmes that Google had developed with government as well as private sector partners – India Station and Internet Saathi. The former, which offered Wi-Fi services at 110 stations, had six million users per month, while the latter had already covered 60,000 villages reaching out to 2.6 million Indian women through handheld tablets or smartphones (currently only 1 in 10 rural users are women) and introducing them to services they can directly avail of through the Internet.
Summing up the potential, Anandan said that for this section of the population, the Net is not only about efficiency and comforts, but about improving their livelihoods and changing their lives. Google was focused on reaching out to this segment with its vision of ‘Internet for every Indian’.
The Q&A session that followed was a mix of questions raised by the panelists – Bobby (Ashish) Kothari and Tanmay Shah – and some raised directly by the audience. A variety themes and areas were covered, both seeking clarifications and additional information, or discussing perspectives and approaches to business.
Anandan stressed that every individual has to find the things that motivate him/her, but having a mentor or a motivator was always useful. He also talked about the willingness to pursue one’s passion and the readiness to take the plunge going hand in hand with hard work and creative thinking.
Pinpointing the approach that sets Google apart from other companies, Anandan said that the emphasis was on thinking big (10x increases, rather than 10%), sharing responsibility and getting the team involved in problem solving to change the trajectory of the business. Think large and scalable; select the right people with talent and stretch them to deliver; ask the team the right questions and let them come up with the solutions, were some of the other insights that he offered to the audience.
Russell Mehta of Rosy Blue proposed the Vote of Thanks.

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