Outliers 19: Google’s Rajan Anandan believes the internet will transform a billion lives

Pankaj Mishra May 31, 2017

Rajan Anandan, Google’s vice-president for Southeast Asia and India, is a diehard believer in India’s internet story. “I’m a perennial India bull… The internet is going to make India reach even greater heights,” he says. He adds that Google’s mission in India is “internet for every Indian.”

He also believes in the country’s potential to produce multi-billion dollar companies in the digital economy. He’s been an active angel investor in the ecosystem, having backed startups such as Instamojo. “A huge number of them (startups) have become profitable, because they had to… When you realise you can’t raise money, you have to get profitable. That’s the agility of Indian entrepreneurs,” he says.

As I sit down with him for this week’s Outliers chat, I fire away questions at him:

Is Snapdeal a failure or a success?

Are current startup founders capable of handling scale and complexity and creating long-lasting companies?

Did everyone create a hype about the potential of Indian ecommerce?

What are Google’s ambitions? Will it ever cross the line and become a service provider in ecommerce and food tech?

And so on.

Anandan holds fort well. He cites Snapdeal as an example of an early starter in India’s ecommerce, which helped change consumer behaviour for good. “Snapdeal will be remembered in a very positive way,” he says, adding it’s one of three-four companies shaping the ecommerce industry and case studies will be written about it.

His obsession with technology is rooted in his stint at MIT. “If you went to MIT, you either love technology or at the end of it, you knew so much about what was happening at the time,” he says, adding he studied neural networks at MIT 20 years ago, something that is mainstreaming only now.

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Podcast produced by Anand Murali. Lead photograph: Rajesh Subramanian
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