Google plans to offer free websites to Indian SMEs

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Google Inc said it will offer free websites to small and medium businesses in India in a move to boost internet usage in Asia’s third-largest economy and aims to get half a million of these businesses online in the next three years.

India is the world’s second-biggest mobile phone market with about 870 million users, but internet penetration is low. The country is home to an estimated 8 million small and medium businesses, of which about 400,000 have a website and 100,000 have active online presence, Google said in a presentation recently.

The online commerce, or e-commerce, market in India is small now but few people doubt one day it will be a big business in the country. Google said in the presentation e-commerce in India has hit an ‘inflection point’.

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“We want to build an ecosystem…we are investing in the market,” Nikesh Arora, Google’s chief business officer, told reporters in the capital, adding the country was not a big revenue market yet but a good user market.

Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google’s Indian unit, said the Internet search giant was making significant investments in the free web hosting initiative but had no near-term revenue expectations from it.

Google and its partner web hosting firm HostGator will facilitate free web domain names and will maintain the websites for a year without charging any fee. At the end of the first year, users will have to pay a ‘nominal charge’ if they wish to renew their domain name, Google said in a statement.

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