Ram Papatla said that if any product or feature they developed for India finds a broader appeal outside the country, they will make it available to those markets as well.
Google has been actively expanding its Android product and engineering presence in India over the past year, to cater to millions of new users coming online in the country.
In February, the tech giant hired former Flipkart and Booking.com executive Ram Papatla to set up a dedicated team for building new experiences to solve the unique needs of consumers in the country.
The first step in this direction was the launch of the JioPhone Next, an entry-level smartphone which has been co-developed with Reliance. The smartphone which went on sale earlier this month is powered by Pragati OS, an optimised version of Android operating system tailored for users in India.
Papatla, who is currently serving as the general manager and India engineering lead for Android, said the team's mandate is quite broad and they will eventually look at a larger portfolio of devices that would be relevant to the country.
"We are thinking about the computing power for India, not necessarily only smartphones. It's a young team and we started with entry level smartphones but over the next few months or years, we will probably look at the whole portfolio of things that makes sense for the market," Papatla said.
That said, he noted that while the team is leading the work for the India market, they have hundreds of engineers, product managers and business folks from the global Android team across the world helping them achieve the mission here. Papatla didn't disclose the size of the Android engineering team in the country.
Made for India, made for the world
Papatla also noted that if any product or feature they developed for India finds a broader appeal outside the country, they will make it available to those markets as well.
"It's possible that we can set up the infrastructure in such a way that India becomes a leading market to validate something. The team here in India is actually set up to do such a thing, we're able to now release something that could be possibly useful for India first but we will make sure that it benefits everybody in the world," he said. This however excludes features that are exclusive to an OEM or a partner.
Device financing a key driver for affordability
Papatla said device financing will be one of the most important drivers to solve the challenge of affordability in the country.
"We have seen various financing options in India that are creative. We can learn a lot from what Jio has done. We think that this is an area where Google can take a lead, but they're too early in this space. We need to make sure we understand this ecosystem end-to-end" he said.
On October 29, Reliance announced that the JioPhone Next will be available for an entry price of Rs 1,999, with the remaining amount paid via the company's easy EMI scheme over 18 or 24 months. The smartphone can also be bought upfront for Rs 6,499.
Open for more partnerships
Papatla said they will evaluate more partnerships with original equipment makers (OEMs), telecom operators and developers to solve for various customer needs in the country in the coming months and years.
"We are first making sure that we are insights driven in terms of what the market needs and then we're trying to figure out if we can solve these by ourselves or work with a local partner. But nothing is off the table. We have made a very large commitment to the India development fund as our signal to say that we are open to investing in partnerships where it makes sense," Papatla said.
In July last year, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai had announced plans to invest $10 billion in India over the next 5-7 years as part of India Digitisation fund, with a focus on areas crucial to the country's digitisation efforts.
This includes the investment in Jio Platforms and startups such as Dailyhunt parent VerSe Innovation, InMobi's mobile content platform Glance, offline-to-online commerce platform DotPe and neobanking startup Open.Disclaimer
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