Indian entrepreneurs and innovators have the potential to build the “next Google” provided they get the required infrastructure support from the government in terms of increased Internet connectivity, according to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, in an essay for the book ‘Reimagining India: Unlocking The Potential of Asia’s Next Superpower’.
The book is commissioned and edited by McKinsey & Co. and includes contribution from thought leaders such as CNN’s Fareed Zakaria; Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates; Mukesh Ambani, the CEO of India’s largest private conglomerate; Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria; and Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys and chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, along with contribution from Schmidt.
Schmidt says that he has seen the talent of India’s tech-savvy entrepreneurs, based on the fact that they account for 40% of the startups in Silicon Valley. Given the right set of opportunities and support system in India, these entrepreneurs can “change the world”, without having to leave the country.
“That may not happen for quite a few years. But if India plays its cards right, we will soon see Indian engineers and small businesses tackling Indian problems first, then exporting the solutions that work best,” Schmidt said. He further predicts that India can increase the Internet penetration to 60-70% in the next 10 years.
Currently, India has an Internet base of over 200 Mn users out of a population of 1.23 Bn, implying Internet penetration of 16.7%, according to a recently released report by IAMAI. Whereas, for developed nations, Internet penetration is close to 70%.
To increase Internet access to its citizens, Schmidt believes India needs to focus on two key things- quickly building out the fixed line networks in its cities, since fiber-optic cables provide much higher connectivity; and improving mobile Internet and cellular technology. With a base of 110 Mn mobile Internet users currently according to IAMAI, promoting mobile Internet and making the switch from 2G and 3G technology to 4G can be a crucial step by the government.
However, Schmidt also points out that achieving these two goals may take time for India due to a debt ridden and undercapitalized telecom industry. But an investment in building a better telecom network will prove quite useful to India combined with the rapid increase in the number of affordable smartphones and tablets.
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