Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Crisis-forced digital transformation will shape the future: Google's Karan Bajwa

Google Cloud is helping thousands of organisations, including many of the world's largest companies, transform themselves, says Bajwa, managing director of Google Cloud, India

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Apr 23, 2020 01:41:15 PM IST
Updated: Apr 23, 2020 02:06:29 PM IST

This is part 6 of a series on how India’s biggest tech firms are helping companies deal with the Covid-19 lockdown, and what their biggest challenges and opportunities are. Read previous instalments here

Google’s cloud technologies are being put to use by customers ranging from healthcare providers, amid the pandemic, to retailers bent on giving their consumers a futuristic digital experience, says Bajwa in an interview with Forbes India. Edited excerpts:


What are the biggest challenges (and any opportunities) your enterprise customers are facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Companies have been hit hard and are bracing for what many are referring to as the toughest phase in business continuity. The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting customers in different ways—whether it’s those directly impacted by the virus (hospitals, government agencies), those needing to address dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour (retailers, grocery stores, media companies), those needing to rapidly enable work-from-home scenarios, or those worried about business continuity and uptime of their mission-critical systems.


How are you helping your customers tackle those challenges?

We are having daily conversations with customers on how we can help them serve their employees and their own clients during this challenging phase. To help people stay safe, informed and connected, we’re enabling premium Google Meet features for customers at no cost till September 2020; helping governments build rapid response apps and virtual agents to ensure citizen preparedness; and ensure healthcare providers have the collaboration tools and infrastructure support that they need to provide enhanced healthcare services.

Businesses can also quickly update their hours of service and if they are ‘temporarily closed’ on Google My Business. We are also exploring ways for retailers to pursue omni-channel strategies and better predict product demand.


Which products and services from your company are most in demand during these times? Why?

We’ve seen surges in the use of Google Meet, our video conferencing product, at a rate we have never witnessed before. Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen Google Meet help millions of people stay connected, whether it’s colleagues working at home, companies live-streaming to global employees, doctors caring for patients, banks providing loans, retailers and restaurants helping the elderly place orders for home delivery or curb-side pickup, social services conducting welfare checks, governments serving citizens, or schools staying in session.

Over the last few weeks, Meet’s day-over-day growth surpassed 60 percent, and as a result, its daily usage is more than 25 times what it was in January. Despite this growth, the demand has been well within the bounds of our network’s ability.​

We have also been helping the healthcare industry by building critical tools and solutions to help in identifying new therapies and treatments and assist hospitals in tracking the pandemic. We have been helping retailers, manufacturers and other businesses handle demand.

Furthermore, we are seeing that the retail industry is going through a transformation driven by customers who expect a seamless experience between online and in store. These customers are looking for tools that can make recommendations or better, help them find what they need. They also want the entire experience to be faster and more personalised than ever.

As a result, many retailers are turning to cloud technologies to meet these needs. Google Cloud globally is already partnering with retailers across the globe to address these challenges. Brands are leveraging Google Cloud technologies in areas like ecommerce hosting, data analytics, machine learning and workforce transformation in order to better serve their customers.

In light of this, we recently announced a number of new retail solutions, created in collaboration with our ecosystem of retail partners and designed to solve specific business challenges.


How well were your customers prepared for the work-from-home scenario?

Customers across the board have had to quickly enable remote or work-from-home scenarios, and one of the biggest concerns has been the need to use safe and secure video conferencing. We continue to protect Google Meet users and their data and will keep innovating with new features to make our tools helpful as well as secure.


Are your customers accelerating their move-to-the-cloud plans during these times? Why?

Digital transformation takes on new meaning during this global crisis. It will be the new foundation for the future and leveraging the cloud to future proof organisations is more important than ever.

We are helping thousands of organisations, including many of the world’s largest companies, transform themselves. Worldwide, if you look at the 10 largest companies in each industry, nine media companies, seven retailers, six energy and utility companies, and five of the top 10 banks, telecommunications companies, manufacturers, and software companies are using Google Cloud as part of their business transformation.


How are you helping your customers accelerate their move to the cloud?

As people transition to remote work and learning in response to Covid-19, many are looking to build their skills and increase their knowledge while at home.

We’re offering our portfolio of Google Cloud learning resources, including our extensive catalogue of training courses. Anyone can gain cloud experience through hands-on labs no matter where they are—and learn how to prototype an app, build prediction models and more—at their own pace. Teams can also build their skills through our on-demand courses on Pluralsight and Coursera. Our most popular learning paths, including Cloud Architecture and Data Engineering, are now available for all.