Google is lacking a big consumer app in the country despite having over 90% smartphone market share in India. Facebook has its Messenger and WhatsApp that are massive in India, and Google is getting anxious that it could lose out.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai made his first official trip to India in mid-December as the company tries to expand in the country. Business Insider spoke to a Google’s Ex-employee turned investor, Keval Desai, about the problems Google is having in one of the fastest growing markets on Earth.
According to Desai, Google has three options to fix the problem.
Problem 1: India is a mobile-first country
In India, the majority of internet users have their first experiences of technology and the internet on a mobile device, mostly on a smartphone rather than a PC.
“Google faces a completely new ecosystem in mobile that is similar to the old PC era of the ’80s-’90s and not the web era of 2000s when Google was born”, Keval Desai said. The whole of Google’s business and the company has been working hard on creating mobile apps for all platforms while expanding beyond search and advertising, which make up 90% of Google’s revenues.
Problem 2: Facebook
“Messaging apps have become the entry point for most of the tasks on a smartphone in India,” “Google has no chance with desktop social and I think trying to compete here is like fighting the last war,” Desai said. “It is pointless and I believe Google recognizes that”. Google owns the OS in Android, but it doesn’t own the entry point on a smartphone.
Facebook bought WhatsApp precisely this reason. The company wanted to own the portal through which people visit the internet.
Problem 3: Becoming a destination site
Becoming a destination website will be difficult for Google in India, according to Desai.
“Internet users in India do all of their communication, commerce, social activities within the walled garden of WhatsApp,” he said. “Many of these users don’t even have a Gmail account because they were not even online until they got their first mobile phone so they are not in the Google universe.”
Desai pointed towards an article which details how a street vendor in India has increased sales dramatically by using the group messaging feature in WhatsApp. This, he said, “perfectly captures Google’s challenge in India.”