Late July, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, was in Nigeria unannounced and he spoke at the Google for Nigeria event which was largely a showcase of Google’s agenda for Nigeria and Africa.
Although many in attendance expected he would deliver a keynote address, he went for a keynote interview instead during which he somehow revealed the uniqueness of Google and its products.
According to him, Google’s product design is such that it can be used by anyone – from the professor in Harvard to the child on the street of Lagos.
In other words, it’s the same Google Map, YouTube, Google Drive and others that are available for everybody, no separation of services for different category of users.
Why is this important?
In an ever changing world, it is reasonably smart to make universal products that everyone can use and does not require decentralized reviews and updates. The Google Map is a good example of this.
Because of its uniformity across the world, it has become the navigation tool of choice for various apps and services. This wouldn’t have been achievable if Google had decided to make various versions of the service.
His words at the event also revealed that Google is not just targeting current internet users, the company also wants to be the one introducing technology to many people for the first time.
Going down memory lane, he reminisced on the first technological innovation that his family acquired while in India, it was the refrigerator. His face lit up as he recounted the nostalgic feeling that came with the realization of the ability of the cold chamber to preserve food much longer.
Even though he smartly wriggled his way quickly out of the now annoying jollof rice debate, Pichai was able to establish a connection with the average Nigerian and he appeared to be much more informed about Nigerians than one would be able to do within the few hours he spent in Lagos.
He mentioned the energy in Nigeria, the enthusiasm and happiness.
“People is the most fundamental resource that a country has,” he told the audience that was partially filled with people trying to take good pictures of him to be posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
He also believes that the major present task before everyone in the ecosystem is figuring out how to move Nigeria and other African countries to digital economy. Even on this, he said Africa is impressing the rest of the world.
“I’m in Nigeria to learn how things will evolve for the next 10 to 20 years. African people do things on mobile in a different way than we are used to,” he said in Lagos.
With the numerous money-backed announcements made by the company at the Google for Nigeria event, the bigger question is what’s in it for the company?It’s not aggressively selling its own devices in Nigeria yet it is making more commitment to the ecosystem than the OEM companies.
The answer in the short-term is consumer’s attention which it is currently getting. Google is everywhere, sometimes intrusive. It wants to help users with everything. With Nigeria’s large population and active internet users, Google is aiming to localize and is doing this across all sectors. What’s next? Ask Google.