Google to partner BSNL for Project Loon as Pichai pitches for a bigger India market

Google is looking to partner state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) for its Project Loon as the internet giant projects India as its largest market outside the United States.

By partnering with telecommunication companies to share cellular spectrum, Google's project Loon, a balloon-enabled platform, proposes to offer internet services to people in inaccessible areas.

Communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday after a meeting with Google's CEO Sunder Pichai that the government has in-principle agreed to partner with Project Loon on a pilot basis and state run BSNL has been assigned to partner it.

Pichai, the Indian-origin CEO Google, during his two-day visit also pitched for an improved business climate here. Although he acknowledged that doing business has improved here, he said it should "get a whole lot better".

On his first visit to India after taking over as CEO of US-based Google in August, he said that India will be a larger market for Google than the US next year.

Google under Pichai is also looking to India for taking a lead in developing Android products for the world. It's India-made products include the Google Mapmaker, a feature that allows users to suggest changes on Maps and Youtube Offline that allows users to download and watch videos later, among others.

Google is now offering to provide Wi-Fi connection to 100 railway stations by December 2016 in partnership with Railtel. ''It is the largest public WIFI projects undertaken in the world,'' says Pichai, adding, ''The reason we are doing it is because in India, we thought bringing internet to public would bring in a lot of awareness.''

The project will first be implemented in Mumbai Central, the head quarters of Western Railway, by January.

Google is also planning to build new campus and ramp up engineering presence in Hyderabad to make products for India, while hiring more in Bengaluru.

Google will also help women from three lakh villages across India to get online in three years. The company is expanding bicycle for women programme nationally.

In the first quarter of 2016, Google will release a feature called 'Tap to Translate' that allows the instant translation of any text on the Android phones.

Google also announced a programme to train two million new Android developers over the next three years by working closely with more than 30 universities across country in partnership with National Skill Development Corporation.

These together are expected to create a bigger market for Google than in the US where it has the largest presence.