Howzat! Google plans $30 smartphone for India
With Sundar Pichai at the helm, Google is pushing for a $30 smartphone with high quality features for India. Addressing a packed open-air amphitheatre at IIT-Kharagpur, his alma matter, Pichai identified affordability as one of the major challenges in India’s digital move.
Pichai, an avid cricket and soccer fan, also reminisced his college days. He found his life partner Anjali on the campus. The romance on the campus was tough because access to the girls’ hostel wasn’t easy, he said. “Someone would stand outside and very loudly say, ‘Anjali, Sundar is here for you.’ It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience.”
On India’s challenges, the Goolge CEO said prices of entry-level smartphones needed to come down to nearly $30 (approximately Rs 2,000) to improve access to the internet and digital services. India has over 260 million smartphone users and a majority of these devices are sold under $150.
In a separate interview to a private television channel he said, “We are committed to making even cheaper smartphones. The right price point for smartphones in India is $30, and pursuing high quality smartphones at the price point will unlock it even more. Hopefully, we can all push and make $30 smartphones happen.” He also said that the company is working on making more of its services adapt to the slower internet.
Connectivity, speed, accessibility, affordability and local language support are other challenges for India’s digitisation move, he said, adding that Google’s focus was also on these areas.
“I would love to see cheaper smartphones, entry-level smartphones. I think really we need to bring the prices down even more, maybe at $30 level, while simultaneously addressing these issues” he said.
Connectivity was “extraordinarily important”. Google was working on a number of projects such as ‘Internet Saathi’ to educate people on internet, especially in rural areas, as well as to get them online. Google was working on making its services available in as many local Indian languages as possible. “English is spoken only by a small segment of the overall population. So just getting Google to work in other languages is a big focus. We have made progress today in Android, with search, we support many languages but we want to do all that better so that it works even in rural situations with the right dialects and so on,” said Pichai.
On questions when can India overtake China in digitisation move, Pichai said he was confident that India wo­uld soon be a global player in digital economy.
Pichai also took a volley of questions from students. When asked about some of the current R&D thrust of Go­ogle, he said, “We are ma­king a big bet on machine learning and AI. Advancements in machine learning will make a big difference in many fields. The ability of computers to do tasks like image, voice or sp­e­ech recognition, are reaching a tipping point. Machine learning could be used to detect diabetic retina, which can cause blindness if treatment isn’t administered on time. Google is investing a lot in these fields.”
Ritwik Mukherjee