Saturday, 07 January 2017 01:29

Google plans to get India's 51 million SMBs online with 'Digital Unlocked'


Google just took a major step in its years-long efforts to get more businesses in India to come online and grow on the web. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai today announced Digital Unlocked, an initiative through which the company will facilitate training and certification to assist India's 51 million small and medium businesses — bakeries, apparel stores, grocery shops, what have you — to embrace digital.

Sounds familiar? Google maintains a similar initiative called Digital Garage in the United Kingdom, another called Digital Skills in Africa, and other programs in more than three dozen countries and territories. 

Google has long shown interest in helping Indian small businesses find their way on the web — running campaigns, offering free domains and web hosting — but with Digital Unlocked, it’s taking a leap forward. "Any small business with internet access can sign up," Pichai said at the event.

Google is doing this with getting more government bodies, educational institutions, and other technology companies on board. The Mountain View-giant has partnered with Federation of India for Commerce Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), and Indian School of Business, Hyderabad for training enthusiasts and certifying their progress. Google plans to get India's 51 million SMBs online with 'Digital Unlocked'


On Digital Unlocked website, Google is offering training on 23 digital marketing topics including subjects such as explainer on search engine optimization. Google says it will add more topics moving forward. 

The training topics are meant to make people first aware of why they need to be online, and then, help them understand different online services. Video tutorials of how to use emails, use different search engines, making use of search ads, tracking analytics are there in the library, the company said. 

These training sessions are available as videos, which users can watch online as well as through an app called Primer. The website and app also feature quizzes and tests. 

Google says it also has offline centres in India in Haridwar, Chandigarh, Bhuvneshwar, and Jaipur. Through its partnership with FICCI, there are several classroom centres across India that will also offer eight-hour sessions. The company says it will conduct 5,000 workshops across 40 cities in the country over the next three years.

Pichai also announced that the company will release a tool called "My Business" that will allow people to easily create websites. The tool will first debut in India later this year and eventually be made available elsewhere. Google plans to get India's 51 million SMBs online with 'Digital Unlocked'


What it means for small businesses 

A lot, according to Google. "Less than 32 percent of small businesses in India have any sort of web presence," said Rajan Anandan, Vice President, South East Asia and India at the event. 

"A large number of small businesses don't understand why they need to be online," Anandan added, citing a research the company has done with KPMG.  

Several cloud providers are zeroing in on enterprise customers, however the small and medium businesses space is still largely underserved, according to Agatha Poon, Research Director – APAC Services, 451 Research. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Anandan told Mashable India, that the company intends to run campaigns to make more people aware of such programs. When asked how long does the company think it will take to get a substantial number of businesses on the web through Digital Unlocked, Anandan said there's no timeframe per se. 

What it means for Google

Google isn't the only tech giant that has offered its helping hand to get businesses online. Its global competitor Microsoft also has similar programs with the company offering its cloud services to small and medium businesses.

As noble as the intentions are of these companies, volunteering to help out businesses comes with its own perks. For one, they get a stamp of "approval" from the local authorities, which is strategically important, Poon told Mashable India, adding that it plays a pivotal role in accelerating adoption of their respective services in Asian markets. 

And of course, many of these businesses will become their clients, and help Google and Microsoft fight back Amazon Web Services (AWS), which leads the pack at the global level. 

"Microsoft has already earned the trust of thousands of businesses in India. Google is catching up fast.  The company has publicly announced its global expansion plan, including adding another 10 GCP regions (India is one the new regions) to its network through 2017," she added.


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