New Delhi: Google Inc is sharpening its India strategy by ramping up investments in products, engineering operations, developers, regional web content creation and start-ups as it prepares to get more Indians online.

India has become the second largest mobile search market for Google after the US, and “Google is barely getting started in India," said Sundar Pichai, chief executive of the Mountain View, California-based company on Wednesday.

There are three main aspects that Google is looking at in India, he said during a 20-minute address at the Google for India event in Delhi: helping as many people as possible access the Internet; making sure the products are working for people in India; and creating a platform for users to give back to the Internet, in the form of content sharing, comments and videos.

Some of the bigger initiatives on access include Google’s partnership with Indian Railways to provide Internet at train stations and the much-anticipated project Loon, which uses high-altitude balloons (approximately 20km above the Earth’s surface) to provide connectivity to a ground area of about 80km in diameter using wireless communications technology through partnerships with telecoms companies.

In September, Google partnered with Indian Railways and Internet service provider RailTel Corporation of India Ltd to provide free Wi-Fi at 400 railway stations across India, of which 100 will be covered by 2016, starting with Mumbai Central in January.

For project Loon, the company is in discussions with the Indian government. “We have got a partial go-ahead. While some of the ministries have approved the projects, we are still in discussions with the others," said Marian Croak, vice-president, access strategy and emerging markets. “We hope to start testing soon it in India."

As Google works to “bring the next billion Indians" on the Internet, it is also focussing on content creation in regional languages through its initiative translate-a-thon, which aims to engage Indian users in online translations of English words into Hindi, as well as on relevant products for the Indian market.

After seeing positive results globally for Streamline search, YouTube offline and Map Maker—products which Google created initially for India—the company is now focussing on making products in India for its global audience. Other recently launched products and initiatives in India include a new keyboard that allows users to type in 11 Indian languages, Offline Maps, launched as part of Google Maps that allows real time navigation of streets and location searches without data connection, and a Local Guides programme that enables users to make addition in Google Maps in the form of reviews, comments and photos.

Another new feature, Tap to Translate, will be released in the first quarter of 2016, and will allow users to instantly translate any text on an Android device from English to Hindi and vice versa.

Caesar Sengupta, vice-president for Google’s Next Billion initiatives, said: “With Tap to Translate, you can copy text on any Android device and instantly get the translation, right then and there without ever leaving the app. No more copy pasting, no more app switching, just instant translations."

Meanwhile, the company plans to launch a new programme in India to train two million Android developers over the next three years. It will collaborate with 30 universities across India and the National Skill Development Corporation to skill new developers, who will be personally trained by Google engineers.

Google is also investing in start-ups, having launched Google Capital, the venture capital arm of the firm, in the country earlier this year. It has set aside $20 million for Indian start-ups, with up to $20,000 earmarked per start-up, said Pichai, adding it has already invested in “a few start-ups" in the country.

Also on the cards are plans to ramp up engineering operations in the country by hiring more people at its Bengaluru and Hyderabad centres.

In addition, Google is looking to set up a new campus in Hyderabad over the next few years that will take the total number of Google facilities in the country to five.

“It is a huge positive for India to collaborate with one of the largest and leading tech company in the world. It could be a huge game changer for the country which will open massive opportunities for people," said Raja Lahiri, Partner, Grant Thornton India LLP. “The collaboration is definitely a win-win since India is one of the top countries globally producing largest software talent in the world, the expanding start-up ecosystem, making the country a top talent and innovation hub for the world."

Nandita Mathur contributed to this story.

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