Google’s startup bets could help its Bharat push

Search gianthas made two back-to-back investments in the social network and short videos category through its $10 billion India Digitisation Fund, as it looks to strengthen its presence in the country’s burgeoning digital ecosystem.

The investments inandhave come at a time when domestic and global companies are looking to capitalise on unprecedented user demand for short videos brought about by the ban on Chinese Bytedance-owned popular short videos platform TikTok.

At stake is the growing base of Indian language users who are expected to drive future growth and account for a majority of the country’s internet base in the coming years.

“In the last two years alone, 100 million new internet users have come online from rural India. Data shows that rural consumption now accounts for roughly 45% of overall mobile data usage in the country and is primarily focused on online video,” said Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Google in a blog post.

Since the ban on TikTok in June, more than a dozen short-video apps, including Glance-owned Roposo, Dailyhunt’s Josh, and MX Player’s TakaTak, have been.

MX Player is owned by Times Internet, the digital arm of The Times of India Group that also publishes The Economic Times.

Google-owneddominates the long-form video market, but it still lags in the short videos space, with YouTube Shortsin the country, much behind peers.

In July, Google chief executive Sundar Pichaito invest in India over the next 5-7 years, with a focus on areas crucial to the country’s digitisation efforts.

It soon chipped in nearlyin Mukesh Ambani-owned in Jio Platforms.

One of the key focus areas of the fund was investing and partnering with domestic startups that are building solutions to cater to the needs of Indians in local languages.

“These investments underline our strong belief in partnering deeply with India’s innovative startups, and our commitment to working towards the shared goal of building a truly inclusive digital economy that will benefit everyone,” Sengupta said.


A stake in the two local language platforms is expected to help Google deepen its reach with users in rural areas.

“These apps have a reach beyond metro and tier-1 cities, especially local language users who are using entry or mid-level smartphones. Google’s overall objective is to strengthen its current ecosystem by filling up different gaps. You need to have a well-connected content delivery system to reach the next billion users since their requirement is very different from what you find in metro cities,” said Pavel Naiya, Senior Analyst, Devices and Ecosystem, Counterpoint Research.