Business Today

'It's about going from search to assist'

Nikesh Arora, the New Delhi-born Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer at Google, touches upon a variety of topics in an interview with Business Today
     Print Edition: June 9, 2013

Nikesh Arora, the New Delhi-born Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer at Google, touches upon a variety of topics in an interview with Business Today. Edited excerpts:

Q. What is the future of search?
It's about going from search to assist. Look at Google Now; it is assisting me. Before I search, it tells me the temperature, what the traffic is on the way to my parents' home... It knows that's the trip I'm doing every morning, every evening. There are some things it is intuiting by itself, it is my assistant... This is us going from search to assist. A big shift from search to assist requires you to understand users. Search is a demand function, assist is a supply function. Supply requires a lot more artificial intelligence. The last wave of technology creates a platform for the next. Internet came and created a platform for search. The fact that ubiquity of broadband came about, it created a platform for YouTube... Android is a wonderful platform, it has 400-500 million users, which lets create a new wave from it. Apple made the apps. Five years ago if someone said, there will be no HTML pages and there will be only apps, one would say - he is smoking something.

Q. How big is the mobile advertising opportunity?
The mobile is not a smartphone, not a tablet. Mobile is location and context... The moment my context changes, the way I interact with content will also change. Therefore, the way advertising happens should also change. So, context and location become the future... to extract the full value of mobility you have to make sure that context and location come together. The ability to track location gives context. With context, you can change advertising. So, what I am saying is that mobility is an added layer of context and location. It is not being used in that way today. We are in the very rudimentary stages of saying this is the way we advertise for the web; let's move that to the mobile device.

Advertisers walk in and say, I want to interact, to engage with the end user. The way to engage with the end user is to engage with them in their context. So, yes, mobility is a huge opportunity. The more targeted and more precise the advertising is, the more it becomes like information. The more advertising becomes like information, the more value it has for the end user. And, the more advertising becomes like information, the more the advertiser is going to get return on investment out of it.

Q. How far away are we from that?
(We are) just scratching the surface… We announced a few months ago this notion of an "enhanced campaign"… It hasn't gone too far. Everybody understands the concept but they still want some more control.

Q. Is Google Glass the next big form factor in computing devices?
I don't know. It's a platform. It requires a lot more applications to be created, etc. It's very early to call. ...the whole category of visual information and processing has not reached where textual processing is.

Q. Tell us about local language Internet.
Lately, we have been working on technologies to get Indian languages to play a broader role. Again, the challenge is that I am pretty sure that 95 per cent of people who have access to technology are using it in English.

Q. Still, could local language Internet be the game changer in India?
If you were to rank order and say what comes first, I still think ubiquity would be first. The more prevalent, the more omnipresent access is, the more likely you will see its uptake. I think mobility and ubiquity fall in the same category. I don't think language is as much an issue as local information.

Q. What are the under-the-hood things at Google X?
If it is under the hood, I can't tell you anything about it. It is a broader philosophy. It's the idea of improving something 10x by looking at something completely out of the box, getting out of your comfort zone, and trying to disrupt or trying a tremendous amount of technology and resources to see if you can create a new different business model. People like to make it out as if it is this big AT&T Bell Labs or something. It's not. It's a bunch of people having fun trying out crazy stuff.

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