INTERVIEW WITH THE GOOGLE CEO SUNDAR PICHAI!
We want to do more India-specific things: Said Sundar Pichai to Economic Times, a renowned newspaper, quite a few years back but the interview which is still very relevant for industry watchers today. And, so here it is…
Ten things ET asked Sundar Pichai, when he was Google’s senior vice-president, on the company’s vision for the world and India. Edited excerpts of the interview by Pankaj Mishra & Jayadevan PK, first published on September 16, 2014:
From driverless cars to Google Glass, Google seems to be into a lot of things. How do you describe Google now?
We have always been keen to use technology and computer science to work on problems which can have a big impact on lots of people in their day-to-day lives. That’s the framework by which I have thought of Google. I think (solutions to) the problems are ambitious and will have a lot of impact on people. And it is hard, that’s what Google is about.
Are any of these moonshots for emerging markets? Do you see potential for Loon in India?
Yes definitely. Look at Loon (Google’s project that aims to bring Internet to unconnected populations through balloons), for example. It does not target markets where you already have 4G connectivity. I think it (Loon) will make sense for certain rural places in India. It is pretty exciting to see all the carriers offer connectivity in India in a 3G and a 4G side. But you know you are not going to reach every part of India specially rural parts where you don’t have the density. And I think Loon could play a role there.
Where do you see the future for Chrome and Android?
The combination of getting people a real computing device in their hands with connectivity is a game changer at a profound level. To me, if we can do that then I think you know it is a transformative impact; it is pretty disruptive. So, I have always been passionate about it. The way we have approached is that we are working at computing at all levels. We are trying to push the state of computing forward. So internally we are thinking a lot on how we can reach to the next five billion users. In that context for us Android One is important.
Despite having a big user base in India, technology companies find it hard to make money. Is monetisation a challenge?
I don’t think so ,as long as you take a long-term view; like with everything, the scale of India matters. You have seen this with China. Now the scope and scale of India is incredible. It is already the third-largest country in the world for internet users. In a couple of years it will be the second-largest. We expect to have half a billion internet users in India. The country’s GDP has been growing strongly. So I hope with the right policy and framework, India gets to a GDP of 7-8% and compounding is this amazing thing. And it’s been true of most things we do. It has been true of Android. And Google Play has been very successful for us. We see a lot of adoption. And so, these are all new sources of revenue. If it takes something like Android, we haven’t had the enterprise market at all.
Are you looking at India to develop next-gen products for Google?
We historically haven’t had the notion that we would use a certain off ice. We kind of take a local view. We have a different model. People from the India office can come to the US and vice versa. So we have taken a global approach.
What will be your advice for prospective engineers in India?
My advice would be not to overthink it. As an engineer, I would encourage people to find something they are passionate about and work on it. Work with really great people, you shouldn’t almost feel uncomfortable with your peers, it greatly helps. And work on things which you think will have a genuine impact. I think it is this framework I used in my life.
What are your thoughts on wearable computing? Can we expect some more action on that front?
That is something we are deeply investing in. I think it is exciting for me. I think I said earlier we are constantly trying to push computing forward. I think the onus is on all of us to do wearables not just because it is a hot exciting new category. The question is, can we all work on doing something very useful, and I fundamentally believe we can. Almost all of us would agree that smartphones have made a deep impact. So, I look at next set of things which wearables can do. I look at areas like health…and where we are. Most of us walk into a doctor’s office every two years and you get one snapshot measurement of your health. We know in real life that it is much more involved than that. So, these are all the areas where computing should help.
Is India’s infrastructure keeping pace with large-scale products that Google is making?
Yes, there are days when I wake up and wish that things could all happen. I look at my son and I look at how he uses computing to effectively learn so many new things in a way which is fundamentally different from how I learned. So I can in a very personal way see the impact it has. I do want to see it all happen quickly.
Google missed out on mobile messaging and payments. How are you catching up?
When we work on a platform, we are deeply committed to a platform strategy. It is very exciting to see the inherent success of WhatsApp. A lot of it was built on top of Android. I view it as a mutually beneficial relationship. I think WhatsApp particularly was successful in many, many markets because of Android. And Android is successful because people like WhatsApp and other great applications. We have a neutral platform, on top of which we will also try hard to win consumer hearts and minds.
Google recently showed its ambitions on the ecommerce front. Would you look at India?
We have a lot of efforts around shopping and commerce. Those are global initiatives for us. But I would say like we are doing with Android One, we would want to do more such India specific things.