Google is clear that it wants to make itself attractive to the kind of organisations that in previous years would have fallen through the cracks - small businesses like neighbourhood dry cleaners, local footwear manufacturers or garment dealers on the high street, whose owners have neither the time to learn technology nor the money to pay consultants to run the same for them.
With more than 50 million small and medium business (SMB) units, India holds an enviable position, and data from management consulting company Zinnov claims more than one-third of India's gross domestic product is attributed to the SMB sector. "Transforming itself from the traditional 'pen and paper' business culture, SMBs today are increasingly adopting technology for the betterment of their business. Modern SMBs are investing heavily on tools like PCs (personal computers), internet and websites to market themselves and compete in global and domestic markets," cites the Zinnov report.
That explains why Rajan Anandan, managing director and vice-president, sales and operations, Google India, is going after SMBs. Today, more than 4 million companies rely on Google Apps across the globe and 5,000 more are adopting the service every day. "We have seen our small and mid-level enterprise business has shown phenomenal growth in India, making us the fastest-growing SMB market for Google globally," says Anandan.
Google India has launched a premier small and medium enterprise (SME) partner programme in the country where these partners will develop, launch and manage digital campaigns for SMBs. Besides, they will also offer end-to-end marketing solutions like search engine marketing and localised marketing solutions across Google properties, like AdWords.
Just about four million SMBs in the country are using PCs. This number is expected to grow 30 per cent by 2015, resulting in doubling the base of SMBs with PCs, reveals Zinnov. Todd Rowe, managing director, Google SMB global sales, says: "For the SME Partner programme, which is part of a global initiative, Google India has at present seven partners and we intend to take this network to about 30 partners within the next 18 months." This in turn means, Google Partners will add about 10,000 sales people, selling Google products across 1,000 cities in India.
AdWords, a form of paid online marketing, generates bulk of Google's revenue, but is also complex to use. The whole 'search engine marketing' industry has emerged just to help customers make the right choices on which keywords to buy and how much to bid. "We also added a lite version of AdWords called 'AdWords Express' that's easier to understand and is especially useful for SMB clients," Rowe explains. This service is now available in about 70 countries around the world. The Zinnov data also reveals that at present, just about 500,000 SMBs in India have websites and 2 million SMBs access the internet. To address this gap, Google has added mobile site-builder to help businesses create simple, mobile-friendly websites.
The company is also running 'India Get Your Business Online', a nationwide initiative that helps SMBs with a free website, personalised domain and hosting.
Google's goal is to help 500,000 SMBs in India to get online in the next three years through this programme. "Look up any industry report, and you will realise that almost all consumers now go online to research products or services in their local area. Not being online today is the equivalent in earlier eras of not having a storefront or a Yellow Pages listing.
"A website makes it possible for potential customers to find you," says Anandan. The business sense here being Google needs the Indian SMBs to advertise online using its Adwords programme and by offering them a free site or a hosting service works favorably for the company. Rowe emphasises that with India being the fastest-growing SMB market for Google globally from digital advertising standpoint, it now has a dedicated team in India to manage its local partners and the team size has been tripled. "We will keep investing in hiring more people in India to strengthen our lead position," he says. India's total digital advertising market is estimated to be $ 500 million and the SMB segment contributes about 20 per cent.
Anandan underlines that with dedicated initiatives for SMBs, it would be able to bring more businesses to the cloud and thereby encourage adoption of Google apps, grow the width of the SMB market with its partners and services and lastly, educate and promote the idea of digital advertising among the Indian business website owners.