Regulations are necessary, and companies along with the government and regulators have a responsibility towards ensuring that the internet is a safe place for users. Over-regulation could scuttle innovation, especially in India since it is at a very early stage in its digital journey, said Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Next Billion Users and Payments, Google. In an interview to ET, Sengupta said a proposed market share cap on UPI players may not be a good measure at this stage. Google is also not worried about competition from WhatsApp Pay, he added. Excerpts:


What is your view on the RBI looking to cap market share for UPI players?


We are so early in the game. Today, Google has 67 million users, UPI overall has around 100 million. We at least have 700-800 million (users) left and those will be tougher to get. Government has made digital payments a major priority. They are really trying to digitise India. I will be really surprised if the government or somebody else does something like this because this is so early in the game. All of us should be focused around driving digital payments.

What’s your take on reports that suggest slowing internet user growth in India?
We are already the second largest internet market in the world, with 430 million users. Now, it’s going to be harder, but I would challenge people who say that the next segment of internet users does not matter. We have to focus on women; on rural and youth. Maybe I am overreacting to this whole “they don’t matter” argument, but it’s our mission to (get everyone onboard) because we feel everyone matters and that’s why Google is building products for everyone. Growth will be slower, it will be more challenging, but that is why I am so excited with the way the government’s leaning on Digital India and we are challenging ourselves to do more. (I am) super excited that for Google Pay two-thirds of our usage is from tier two and three cities. That is where the real need is.

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How do you foresee competition from WhatsApp Pay?
We are so early in this game (that) we are really not focused on the competition. We are focused hard on our users, on merchants, how they evolve, what kind of products we can build for them, what we can enable them to do. Today, Google Pay is accepted pretty much everywhere online; now think about offline. You can use Google Pay for all the large retail players, but how do you enable all the smaller merchants, how can we create more value, can we give them insight on who is paying them, etc. So, there is a lot to be done.

What’s the progress on finding the next Google India head after Rajan Anandan’s exit?
I am sure we will find somebody great.

The government is probably looking at greater control over tech companies and data…
I don’t see this as control. I feel governments pay a very important role in society, of establishing the best guiderails, and we follow every policy and law of the land.

The issue of data localisation is still out in the open. Can it derail growth?
Free flow of data between boundaries will help innovation, not just for larger companies but also for smaller companies and startups. But, we also need regulations. We are going to announce a pretty big programme with the government on digital payments security. Lots of people have never used digital payments before, so we have to be responsible. But broadly, we have to keep in mind that we are very early in the digital journey in India. That’s our opinion, stay focused on users, on innovation. India needs a ton of innovation, for the next 10-15 years. And we at Google are fully committed to doing that…

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India is thinking of asking internet platforms to trace messages, monitor unlawful content. Will it stop cos from looking at it as a lucrative market?
I don’t know about the specifics here, but in general, we have to do certain things. You have to be on top of things like security, fraud — not just government but every company. We have to take those seriously. You can’t innovate if your system has fraud and things like that, but if there is more regulatory cost, that’s always a challenge. It makes it harder to innovate.





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