Up and coming: Google sees strong potential in Pakistani market

Published: September 11, 2012
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“Pakistan is a $400 to $500 million market for Google,” says Google’s head of Emerging Market Development, Southeast Asia, Jana Levene  .ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

“Pakistan is a $400 to $500 million market for Google,” says Google’s head of Emerging Market Development, Southeast Asia, Jana Levene .ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

KARACHI: 

Pakistan is one of the next big markets for Google in Asia, according to executives at Google Pakistan, who held their first ever public event in the country to highlight the technology giant’s interest in the country.

“Pakistan is Google’s next big market in the region,” Google’s head of Emerging Market Development, Southeast Asia, Jana Levene told a gathering of IT experts, bloggers, businessmen and selected journalists at Pearl Continental hotel in Karachi on Monday.

The gathering comes after Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt visited Pakistan in June to meet with the country’s politicians and businessmen. “It was just a regular visit. He wanted to find out how important the use of technology for the country’s leadership and businessmen is,” said Badar Khushnood, Google’s consultant in Pakistan.

Moreover, Google has intensified its operations by getting involved in a lot of projects – especially with the Punjab government – in the country recently. “Innovation Punjab” is one example where Google has partnered with Punjab Information Technology Board. It has launched a social innovation fund – in collaboration with Pakistan Software Houses association, also their partner for the event – to support young entrepreneurs struggling to get their ideas public.

Google’s increased interest in the country, Schmidt’s visit of Pakistan and now this event sends very strong signals to the country – the giant may consider opening an office in Pakistan. Khusnood denied if Google was opening its first office in the country anytime soon but added it couldn’t be ruled out. Google’s representatives attributed Pakistan’s growing importance to multiple factors.

“To enter a market, the first thing we look at is its demographics – number of internet users in that country,” Jana Levene said, explaining why Google is interested in Pakistan. “Twenty-two million internet users is a huge number. It’s more than Australia’s whole population. That’s why we are here,” she said.

The second thing Google is interested in, Levene said, is the size of the market. “Pakistan is a $400 to $500 million market for Google,” she said. Currently, four of the top 10 most popular websites in Pakistan are Google’s sites.

Regulatory framework is another that area Google considers in the markets of its interest, according to Levene. “The laws regarding internet censorship, the security of our employee etcetera are the things we take into account.”

Levene, in her presentation, went at length to describe the features of the Pakistani market that keeps them interested: aside from the 22 million internet users that include two million broadband users, seven million Facebook users, one million Twitter users and 1.2 million LinkedIn users. Of the total mobile phones sold in Pakistan 6% are smart-phones.

Talking about what Pakistanis search on Google, Levene said Pakistanis search Google to solve social problems, discuss politics, start business, entertain and build communities. For example, a Pakistani businessman partnered with an IT expert to start a business for leather shoes. Pakistanis used Google Earth and Google Map tools to track which areas were affected in 2010 floods. As a result, the government was able to reach 800,000 people. On the lighter side, Ali Gul Pir became a YouTube sensation after his video ‘Wadere Ka Beta’ went viral on internet.

Mark Warburton, from Google’s emerging markets’ sales division, highlighted the power that Google’s search engine placed at the fingertips of Pakistani companies. Google Pakistan got eight million queries on Monday alone, he said. He then broke down those queries by sector: 386,000 were telecom queries, which translates to 15,000 queries every hour. Google makes information like this available through its Adwords tool, which can help businesses gain insights into their customers’ interests.

“We are calling you to help us bring more Pakistanis online,” Jana Levene said addressing country’s leadership as well as the technology sector. “Tell the world Pakistan is economically viable. It’s a safe place to do business,” Levene said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated that Google’s revenues from Pakistan were $500 million. That figure represents the total size of the Pakistani advertising market and not Google’s revenues. The error is regretted.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • FBR
    Sep 11, 2012 - 2:37AM

    Please ask Google Pakistan to deposit 16% of this $80M as General Sales Tax on advertising that ALL other Pakistani companies have to. I am sorry but they are bound to pay this as other Pakistani institutions are. You want to operate in Pakistan, then you have to play by the rules or suffer the same fate as in China.

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  • Architect
    Sep 11, 2012 - 2:46AM

    Bravo!!!

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  • Sohail R
    Sep 11, 2012 - 3:39AM

    Farooq,

    Like most Pakistanis, I love hearing positive business news pertaining to our country, but I’d encourage you to check your facts before you publish them in a reputable business newspaper like ET.

    I’m a Google employee and a Pakistani. While it’s encouraging to see Google sales folks doing a press conference in Pakistan, the people you’ve mentioned are not executives at Google, let alone “senior executives”. They are part of the Google Emerging Markets sales team devoted to Pakistan. Keep in mind that Google has sales people assigned to all countries in Asia and that doesn’t imply anything extraordinary about Google’s interest in expanding in a specific country.

    Hence, I’m not sure you can make the assertion that “the key takeaway from the event was not the information, but the fact that it was addressed by six senior Google executives, a strong indication that the technology giant wants to expand further in the Pakistani market.”

    ET’s business coverage so far has been top notch so I was a bit surprised by this incidence of unsubstantiated extrapolation. Hopefully, the team will triangulate its facts better in the future.

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  • Tariq
    Sep 11, 2012 - 5:53AM

    Doubt this number of 500 million as if true, than State bank should show the money leaving paksitan, rather it is that so many pakistanis look at the adds on google that are paid for by US companies in the US

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  • Sep 11, 2012 - 8:19AM

    Thats really cute of FBR to ask for taxes in Dollars. One’s gotta give credit to FBR for knowing that Rupee isnt even worth collecting as a medium for taxation.

    About Google’s revenue. $500 Million is a huge amount. Thats a quarter percentage of the Pakistan GDP. Sure there are millions of users in Pakistan but those users do not have much purchase power to their disposal.

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  • Muhammad
    Sep 11, 2012 - 9:46AM

    This is no reason to be happy!. They are only taking away your money and when it comes to provide means to earn money they refuse.

    Case in point googlecheckout for merchants.

    (googcheckout lets online merchant collect payments for goods sold online.)

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  • Baaghi
    Sep 11, 2012 - 10:06AM

    way 2 go…

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  • Raw is War
    Sep 11, 2012 - 10:09AM

    bogus reporting. As usual.

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  • Jamshedd
    Sep 11, 2012 - 10:45AM

    well 500 million $ is the total advertisement revenue of TV and news paper industry of Pakistan . how come Google is earning that much?

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  • antanu g
    Sep 11, 2012 - 11:07AM

    @Raw is War:
    why bogus…..because it shows a positive side of a so-called failed state and you are not able to digest it?

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  • Muhammad
    Sep 11, 2012 - 11:33AM

    @antanu g

    no it is because we have been down in the technology trench for too long And we know that this is going nowhere.

    Access to USD based online payment is the only way for Pakistan Based, Pakistan Owned ventures(read “unemployed talent”) to grow in an all inclusive way.

    Else you can keep on waiting and getting gratified at some groa visiting the country to siphon off your hard earned money to show as a blip on this revenu line and handing you over a performace certificate and nice photograp to remember them by.

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  • Sep 11, 2012 - 11:44AM

    I also doubt it! but if it’s true then forget taxes, just ask Google to open office in Pakistan

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  • tada
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:22PM

    the query breakdown interestingly doesn’t show porn lookup it should be at top of telecom queries ;)Recommend

  • Imtiaz
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:32PM

    Jana Levene was misquoted. She said Pakistan’s total ad market is about 500 million,out of which about 5-6 million is spent on digital.

    Please bear in mind that when any one uses the word digital, this means display and text ads, whether served through an an network, or via direct media buy from a publisher, social media applications and management, most often also microsites etc.

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  • Adnan
    Sep 11, 2012 - 1:29PM

    Google gonna face corruption and they will go like many other companies.

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  • Sindh Voice
    Sep 11, 2012 - 4:03PM

    Once upon a time there was a Sindh govt, which used to think of peoples, now they have started doing different business, taking care of people is difficult job, now they are just taking care of themselves and the coalition partners.

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  • Pak12
    Sep 12, 2012 - 11:57PM

    @Jamshedd: Go learn about “Pay Per click” by google.

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  • HP
    Sep 18, 2012 - 5:19PM

    It’s not about the 22 million internet users, think of it this way:

    How many additional users of the internet we get everyday out of our population of 160 million and with the induction of Google in Pakistan this is set to increase even faster!

    Hope the big G launches in Pakistan ASAP! Would be of great ease to many Pakistani webmasters.Recommend

  • Salik Mahmud
    Sep 22, 2012 - 1:42PM

    Google’s Android Market i.e Google Play Has Been Blocked in Pakistan for Past 10 Days and Google Maps for Android are Also Not Working. Does Google Management Know That?Recommend

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