Google is making a lot of efforts to bring more and more people across Asia online. Opening an engineering hub in Singapore is the company’s latest strategy, it announced Thursday. On the same day, the company said it acquired the startup Pie, which makes a mobile workplace chat app similar to Slack.
Google targets emerging markets
Pie has only 10 employees, according to LinkedIn. In its last funding round in June 2015, it raised $1.2 million. It is expected that Pie’s engineers will form the first team Google wanted to build in Singapore to target emerging markets. Later the company plans to beef it up with new graduates and engineers from Singapore and abroad.
In a blog post, Google stated that it is looking for engineers who would like to “come back home, or would like to start calling Singapore their home.” The internet giant has kept Pie’s deal details under wraps for now. Google’s Singapore-based VP, Caesar Sengupta, has been quoted as saying that Pie’s mobile direction and entrepreneurial spirit led Google buy it.
Sengupta is a trusted deputy of CEO Sundar Pichai and has listed his title as “VP of the next billion users’ team.” Earlier he was the head of Android One, which was a thrifty handset initiative from Google that failed in some of its markets, particularly India.
Problems with emerging markets
Google is facing a lot of hurdles in bringing the Internet to the developing world in Asia, and Sengupta detailed those challenges. He said that most of the computing devices used in these markets are cheap phones, the connections are extremely poor, and services are not offered in people’s first languages.
“These aren’t easy problems to fix, but we’d like to do a better job of addressing them,” Sengupta said. “That’s why we’re building a new engineering team in Singapore — to get closer to the next billion users coming online and to develop products that will work for them.”
Facebook, which is Google’s chief rival in the space, has already hit a roadblock in its connectivity initiative in Asia. However, even Google has not yet been able to find a winning tactic.