• REUTERS, AFP-JIJI

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Alphabet Inc.'s Google said Monday it would spend around $10 billion (¥1.07 trillion) in India over the next five to seven years through equity investments and tie-ups, marking its biggest commitment to a key growth market.

The investments will be done through a so-called digitization fund, highlighting Google's focus on the rapid pace of growth of apps and software platforms in India — one of the world's biggest internet services markets.

"We'll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments," said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, in a webcast during an annual "Google for India" event.

"This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy."

The new $10 billion investment was the largest Google had made in India, Pichai said.

"We're particularly focused on making sure the internet expands beyond English and other vernacular languages. That's an important angle we've looked at," he said in an interview.

Google wants to bolster the growth of the internet in India, which currently has over 500 million active users, and help get another 500 million people online, Pichai said.

Beyond investments via the fund, Google would also focus on areas like artificial intelligence and education in the country, he added.

Google has already made some direct and indirect investments in Indian startups, such as local delivery app Dunzo.

Indian-born Pichai joined Google in 2004, and is widely credited for making the Chrome browser. He replaced company co-founder Larry Page as CEO of parent Alphabet Inc. last year.

The U.S. tech group, whose Android mobile operating system powers a bulk of India's roughly 500 million smartphones, will continue to work with manufacturers to build low-cost devices so that more and more people can access the internet, another Google executive said.

The investments also come as Google battles rivals like Facebook and Amazon in the vast market of 1.3 billion consumers.

Foreign firms have spent tens of billions of dollars in India in recent years as they fight for a piece of the Asian giant's burgeoning digital economy.

This year alone that has included around $16 billion in investments by Facebook, Intel and others in stakes in the digital services unit of Jio, controlled by Mukesh Ambani — Asia's richest man.

On Monday, Pichai briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his plans, but a government statement suggested that Modi also expressed concerns about data security and privacy.

Modi "said that tech companies need to put in efforts to bridge the trust deficit," the statement said.

Earlier this month the Indian government banned 59 Chinese cellphone apps including the hugely popular TikTok over concerns the firms were passing user data to the Chinese government.

The move came amid a dramatic worsening in relations with China following a brawl on their disputed Himalayan border on June 15 in which 20 Indian soldiers died.

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