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Sundar Pichai coming to India; govt to discuss ‘Made in India’ Pixel phones

Google Inc CEO Sundar Pichai is coming to India this month, and one of the key areas of discussion with the government would be the company assembling its mobile phones in the country.

When asked about the visit, communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “Yes we will be meeting him to discuss a wide range of issues. We will discuss manufacturing of Google phones in India, developing an app developer eco system, cyber security, use of Indian languages etc.”

An e-mail to Google India remained unanswered till publishing the piece.

According to a recent New York Times report, Google is planning to shift half the production of Pixel 7 phones from its Foxconn facilities in south China to Vietnam. However, the Indian government has also had preliminary talks with the company to use India as an assembly base as well.

If the talks fructify, Google will be the third global mobile device player, using India as an export-oriented manufacturing hub. The other big players include Apple Inc, which has already exported Rs 20,000 crore of iPhones between April-December this year, and Samsung India. Both Apple and Samsung are eligible for incentives under the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme.

Pichai’s India visit was preceded by some top Google executives visiting India. They had also met government officials. These executives included Wilson White, vice president of Public Policy and Karan Bhatia, global head of Policy at Google Inc. In 2020, Google committed an investment of $10 billion in India.

Pichai’s visit comes at a time when the company has been hit by the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) recent order slapping a Rs 936.44 cr penalty on it, allegedly for abusing its dominant position concerning its Playstore policy.

The Google Playstore is the main distribution channel used by app developers targeting the Android ecosystem. The CCI order pointed out that making access to the Playstore dependent on mandatory usage of the Google Play billing system for paid apps and in-app purchases constitutes the imposition of an unfair condition on app developers.

CCI had previously slapped a Rs 1337.76 cr penalty on Google for abusing its dominant position in various areas. The company is expected to contest these decisions. The company’s concerns on sideloading apps (mandated by CCI) and its accompanying security issues could also be discussed.

Google also holds an equity stake in Jio Platforms Ltd, besides having a tie-up with its telecom arm Reliance Jio for jointly developing mobile phones to address the affordable 4G smartphone market. The phones based on an optimised Android operating system and bundled with data are already available for customers. A similar agreement is expected to develop 5G phones. Reliance Jio has been rolling out 5G services in the country since November. Business Standard

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