India's entrepreneurial innovators could build 'next Google' , says ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt

India's entrepreneurial innovators had the potential to build the 'next Google' if the country 'plays its cards right' and ensures internet access to millions of its citizens, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt says.

In an essay written for the book Reimagining India: Unlocking The Potential of Asia's Next Superpower edited by global consulting firm McKinsey, Schmidt dubbed India 'an Internet laggard' saying he felt internet in the country today was like what it was in America in about 1994 - four years before the internet search giant appeared on the scene, the report said.

He said India needed to increase its internet penetration across towns and cities, a move that will have a positive impact on India's economy and society.

According to the former Google CEO he witnessed the creative potential of India's people all around him in Silicon Valley where India-born entrepreneurs accounted for 40 per cent of start-ups.

"Just think what will happen when India's entrepreneurial innovators are able to create great global companies without leaving their country. They will change the world. Hundreds of large firms focused on the Internet will be founded and will succeed by focusing purely on Indian consumers, Indian taste, Indian style, Indian sports.

"Can anyone of those companies ultimately become the next Google? Of course.

"That may not happen for quite a few years. But if India plays its cards right, we will soon see Indian engineers and small businesses tackling Indian problems first, then exporting the solutions that work best," Schmidt says.

With a total population of 1.2 billion, India had over 600 million mobile-phone users of which only about 150 million people regularly connected to the internet.

In 2011, India's internet penetration rate stood at 11 per cent, 'far below' that of developed nations where penetration rates averaged 70 per cent.

India's internet penetration rate stood at less than a third of the penetration ratio of 38 per cent of China, and less than half of those in developing countries, which averaged 24 per cent.

'By any reasonable definition, India is an Internet laggard... In spite of its well deserved reputation as one of the world's leading IT and software development hubs, India is far from being the connected society many foreigners imagine,' Schmidt said.

Schmidt added, the number of India's broadband users, 20 million was even smaller, adding however that India was on the cusp of a connectivity revolution.