Covid-19 has supercharged India's digital growth: Google India head Sanjay Gupta

Sanjay Gupta
Sanjay Gupta

Google India's country head and vice-president Sanjay Gupta said, thanks to COVID-19, India had squeezed in the potential digital growth of the next 10 years in the past 10 months. “We won't be going back to the world we were living before. These times of challenge have led to an incredible moment of innovation,” the Google India head said while delivering the keynote address on 'Digital-Led 2020: The New Normal' at ManoramaOnline's third edition, and the first virtual summit, of Techspectations.

As proof, he cited the basic metric of per user data consumption. In 2014, the per user data consumption was 86 megabyte. In 2018, it was 8 gigabyte, driven by a steep fall in data prices. After COVID-19 struck, it nearly doubled to 14 GB per user.

Gupta said India already had 500 million users, the second largest population of online users in the world. “Now, it is becoming more accessible and playing a bigger role in the lives of people,” Gupta said. He said the positive transformation had already been witnessed. As many as 60 million micro medium and small industries (MSMEs) have tried implementing digital payments. "Online tools have been a big boon in these times of social isolation," Gupta said. "Those gutsy enough to adopt were also getting good results," he said.

The Google India head said the changes were even hyper local. The neighbourhood stores in many parts of rural India have made use of social media tools like WhatsApp to communicate with their clients. Social distancing has also goaded them into introducing digital payments. "Many even put their inventory on Google sheets and shared it with their customers," Gupta said.


Even bigger businesses have gained. He gave the example of Maruti which saw a 33 per cent jump in their online inquiries in the past five months.

He said the pandemic had supercharged the rate of adaptation. It took three years to spread digital transactions in India. The one billion was reached in 2019. But the next one billion transactions happened in the next one year. Gupta said by 2022, India will clock one billion digital transactions a day. There is going to be an explosion of e-commerce in the country.

The pandemic, according to the Google India head, was causing major behavioural changes. “The pandemic has forced parents, students and educators to stay home, impacting 33 crore children. Parents who once used to strictly restrict the mobile time of their kids are now encouraging them to use smart phones," he said.

Nonetheless, he flagged two issues. One, not all families can hope to buy a smartphone or access the internet, leaving many children out of the revolution. “We have to collectively think of ways to beat this,” Gupta said. Two, content providers and social media platforms should be careful about the content kids would be subjected to.

The Google India head put forward what he called the 'AND' mantra for the rapidly changing world. One, accept that the world has changed. "No matter what your role, acknowledging this change is the first important step.”

Two, be nimble. Three, disrupt. It is time for radical change. "We need to disrupt our own business, marketing and distribution models," he said.

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