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Yesterday saw Google’s Indian origin global chief executive officer Sundar Pichai unveiling Google’s Digital Unlocked program, a program aimed at getting all of India’s 51 million small and medium businesses (SMBs) online.

According to Pichai, the Indian subcontinent boosts of some 51 million SMBs today that are contributing a good 37% to India’s GDP. Unfortunately, out of these, only 32% have a presence online or are truly being able to take advantage of the power of the digital world for the betterment of their businesses. It is this balance 68% of the businesses that Google India aims to digitally empower by the end of year 2017.

While emphasising on the various benefits of going digital, Pichai also added that the World Wide Web holds as much as importance for an established local merchant, as it is does for a high-flying startup. Google’s new initiatives for the SMBs include a training program, tools to build their websites, and a support service to help such businesses get online.

The Digital Unlocked program is a free training program that aims to teach SMBs the basic digital skills required to get online and how they can start using the Internet to grow their business. While the online training under the program consists of 90 self-paced training video tutorials, created by the Indian School of Business, FICCI and Google itself, the offline training comprises of an eight-hour classroom training programme created in partnership with FICCI. By 2020, Google plans to successfully conduct as much as 5,000 such workshops in 40 Indian cities.

The 90 training video tutorials have been curated keeping in mind India’s business environment and will be available to SMBs absolutely free of charge. The tutorials cover topics right from how to build a web presence to how to drive online growth of their businesses to reach their customers over mobile and video.

“The internet and digital technology will be an engine of growth for the Indian economy. Today, anyone can become an entrepreneur, a developer, or a creator, but it is important that they have the right tools and skills to digitize. We believe it is important for us to invest in training and equipping these individuals and small businesses to accelerate their journey of growth,” said Pichai at the Google event in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Sundar Pichai with Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for law & justice, electronics & information technology at a Google event in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Sundar Pichai with Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for law & justice, electronics & information technology at a Google event in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The Wednesday Google event also saw the tech giant announcing a free tool called ‘My Business Website’, aimed at helping SMBs in creating a free, mobile optimised website. To be launched later this year, the new feature will provide the SMBs with simple, templated, editable and easily accessible websites from their data and photos on Google Maps. It will be made available in 9 Indic languages.

In addition to the Digital Unlocked training program and My Business Website tool, Google also launched a free mobile app called Primer, aimed at teaching digital marketing skills to SMBs. The app, which can also work in its offline mode, is currently only available in English and Hindi, but its Marathi, Tamil and Telugu versions are expected to be launched very soon.

A recent joint research study conducted by Google and KPMG titled Impact of internet and digitization on SMBs in India had revealed that as much as 52% of the digital businesses in India cater to customers outside their base city and employ five times more people than offline businesses, but at the same time the profits of digitally aware and engaged SMBs grow twice as fast compared to offline SMBs. The research also pointed that a greater uptake of the digital world by the Indian SMBs can help in increasing their contribution to India’s GDP by 10 percentage points, taking it up to 46-48% by the year 2020 from the current 37%.

Google’s Wednesday announcements are in resonance with the tech giant’s continuous efforts to support the Indian government’s Digital India initiative. In 2016, Google had launched Google My Business, a program that aims at helping SMBs get an online presence on Google Search and Google Maps, without having to invest money in a website or domain.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who is currently in India on a work and personal visit, visited his alma mater IIT-Kharagpur today. The Indian-origin Google CEO discussed his life on campus in an event titled ‘A journey back to the past to inspire the future,’ which was streamed live by Google on YouTube.

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