Google targets India

20 April 2011

NEW DELHI: Google, the online giant, is aiming to drive up revenues from India, which now boasts the world's third biggest internet population.

Speaking to newspaper the Economic Times, Rajan Anandan, Google India's managing director and vp, sales and operations, reported the possibilities promised by the country are immense.

More specifically, he suggested India has overtaken Japan's online audience of 99m people, albeit still considerably trailing America's 300m connected community, a figure approaching 600m in China.

"At 100m, India has the third largest internet user base globally," said Anandan. "More people are transacting business online and it's the right time to monetise the internet."

Alongside rising penetration, engagement has also increased, with the average netizen dedicating 16 hours each week to this channel, two hours more than devoted to watching TV, Google estimates.

Demonstrating these evolving habits, Google-owned YouTube currently attracts 20m visitors from India, while Orkut, the company's social network, has around 16m active members from the country.

One of Google's core priorities in India is enhancing relationships with agencies like GroupM, Madison Communications, Ogilvy & Mather and VivaKi.

"They are the most influential partners in terms of our revenue growth," Anandan said. "About a third of my time will be spent working with agencies."

Among the payoffs of these efforts is securing greater interest from major brand owners including Unilever, the FMCG manufacturer, and telcos such as Vodafone and Airtel.

"We have 22 of the 25 largest advertisers in India who advertise on Google," Anandan revealed.

YouTube was recently at the heart of an innovative marketing alliance between Google and Unilever, as the FMCG firm sponsored the exclusive release of the movie Dabangg on the video-sharing portal.

Elsewhere, the long tail of small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may ultimately become a source of substantial income for Google in India, as it has in the US.

"We see this as a massive untapped opportunity as they are very return on investment-focused," said Anandan.

"By advertising online they know exactly the outcome of the money spent. [An] SMB pays if it gets a lead or someone clicks on their site."

Display ads have formed an additional component of Google's expansion plans, and it now incorporates roughly 50,000 websites within its portfolio here, yielding exposure to 80% of Indian web users.

Mobile also represents a key marketing tool for organisations seeking to reach Indian shoppers, given it is the main means of internet access for many individuals.

Google's specialist agency, AdMob, offers a wide variety of services in this area, leaving its parent well-placed to tap in to popular uptake of the wireless internet.

"With 40m mobile internet users, even without 3G, it creates a very interesting mobile opportunity,'' Anandan argued.

Cloud computing constitutes another avenue Google wishes to develop, as does "social search", a model it has pursued with the roll out of the "+1" button allowing consumers to rate search results.

"Our strategy is to make social a part of all our products," said Anandan. "Our focus is not to build a Facebook, but how do we make the web social?"

Overall, Google expects Indian online adspend to hit $1bn by 2014, with huge room for further growth remaining.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff