Internet search giant Google Inc. is making a strong play for India’s heartland with a new partnership announced Monday that aggregates local-language content for nearly a billion people who are yet to benefit from the Internet in the country. At an event in New Delhi, Google demonstrated voice search in Hindi to launch the Indian Language Internet Alliance.
The alliance is made up of some of India’s biggest media companies offering local-language content, starting with a new portal -- www.hindiweb.com -- for speakers of Hindi, the most widely spoken Indian language. Google hopes this new effort will more than double India’s online population, adding 300 million local-language speaking people by 2017. It would also potentially boost the company's local online advertisement market in India, one of the fastest-growing mobile ad markets in the world.
“The Web holds great potential to empower many Indians economically and socially, and thanks to the smartphone revolution, many millions of Indians will be coming online for the first time in the next few years,” Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India, said in a statement on Monday.
India has some 800 million active wireless subscribers and yet, only between 200 million and 250 million have some access to the Internet. Even among them, only about 10 percent, or about 20 million online users, are responsible for India's nascent online shopping boom.
Local language access to the Internet, increasingly available on smartphones, would exponentially raise India’s online shopping market opportunity over the $2 billion it was estimated to be in 2013, as India adds tens of millions of smartphone users every month.
This has prompted companies such as Amazon Inc., the world’s largest retailer, and Indian rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal to commit to investing billions of dollars in India’s online shopping market.
Today, fewer than one in three mobile handsets sold in India are smartphones, but that is changing rapidly as China’s Xiaomi Inc., Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc. and India’s Micromax Informatics Limited, and other local competitors, flood the market with feature-rich smartphones running Google’s Android software.
At least three Indian smartphone sellers have also partnered with Google to sell handsets at a little over $100 a set, with specifications dictated by Google’s Android One project, offering end users a more up-to-date user experience, fewer glitches and timely software updates directly from Google. Local-language content has been the missing element.