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India will teach the world about mobile internet: Google

March 25, 2014 15:43 IST

India has huge growth potential believes Google.Almost half of all Internet users in India access the worldwide web through mobile devices and almost each new user being added in the country is coming through the ubiquitous mobile phone.

Karim Temsamani  (below left), head of Google sales and operations in the Asia — Pacific region, tells Surabhi Agarwal this trend does not limit the monetisation opportunity for advertisers. On the other hand, it expands the scope, as mobile is more personalised and knows more about the user than the PC. Excerpts:  

How do you look at the trend in India,  where most new internet users are coming online through mobile phones?  

We are learning a lot from what is happening in this region. Google is a ‘mobile first’ company. We are also in the process of transitioning many of our products to that.

And you will see that the search experience on mobile devices is phenomenal because of the many tools that we have.

And products like Google Now throw answers to people’s queries even before they have the impetus to make those.

We have products on the advertising side, which enable companies to target users based on the location. It improves the users’ experience and provides great benefits from returns on investment perspective. 

What is your learning out of India, as most of the users here are going to access internet through mobile devices and that could limit monetisation?

 I don’t think mobile limits the (monetisation) options, in fact it expands it. The mobile device has tremendous tools; it has sensors; it tells where you are; it can hear you; it has a sense of direction in which you are going; it has eyes through the camera. So it can provide enhanced advertising experience.

We have already created some great tools. As the market continues to evolve, we will try to understand better the usage of the mobile by the consumers as well as by the advertisers.  

How are the advertising revenue numbers from India looking? Are they encouraging enough?  

The reality is that while the population of India is very large, the country is still in the early stages so far as internet adoption is concerned.

There are some 1.2 billion people here, whereas only around 200 million are online, and a third of them use internet through smartphones. This is going to dramatically change over the next two-three years.

So, we are incredibly excited by the potential of the mobile economy and the difference it will make in people?s lives in a country like India. However, Indian businesses have been slow to adopt and adapt mobile internet. And I am really encouraging them to do so.

Many small businesses here are not yet online and not certainly on the mobile web. Even many of the large businesses do not have mobile optimised websites.

 Is Google keenly looking at India from a start-up innovation point of view?

We look at businesses at all around the world. The great thing about India is that a great number of entrepreneurs are coming out of the country. With faster broadband, you are going to see a new wave of entrepreneurship.

Most of the population in India will first consume the internet on the mobile-based devices; so India will be at the forefront of innovation from that perspective.

 They will also be able to teach rest of the world on what users are wanting and how to engage them. So the relevance of Indian companies is only going to grow dramatically.

Is Whatsapp an opportunity missed for Google?

I think there are tremendous changes in the ecosystem for all companies. We have tremendous products, and we concentrate on figuring out how we can provide the best products for the users.

 Whatsapp's business development head is an Indian and an ex-Googler. Your comments?

Yes. The country, which searched the most for the term $19 billion (the price Facebook paid to acquire Whatsapp) was India.

So there is tremendous interest in India to find out why Whatsapp has been able to drive to that level.

One learning from this is Whatsapp started with only a mobile focus, even when smartphone penetration in the US was only 10 per cent.

So, from an India perspective, it is almost late to start a mobile business now. Therefore, it'ss really important for the enterprises to think about what they need to do to cater to users 

Surabhi Agarwal in New Delhi