Google TV: Asia roll-out plans

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    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

    Nov 20, 2010
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    Google Asia boss searches for local style

    Google's president, Japan and Asia-Pacific operations, talks about the challenges in managing an Internet firm in Asia.


    After Google Inc.'s run-ins with the Chinese government over censorship last year, when its Chinese search engine was rerouted to Hong Kong, the Internet-search giant says it is committed to expanding its footprint in the Asia-Pacific region. Earlier this year, the company announced it will hire more than 500 employees in Asia. In January, it also announced plans to open an office in Kuala Lumpur, its first new office in Asia in four years. The Mountain View, Calif-based company set up offices in Singapore and Korea in 2007. But challenges remain as the company tries to expand in a region where there are strong local competitors.

    Google Daniel Alegre, Google president for asia-pacific



    Career: Joined Google in 2004 and served as vice president for Latin America sales before moving to Asia. Prior to that he worked for Bertelsmann, focusing mainly on music and various digital initiatives.
    Education: MBA from Harvard Business School, J.D., from Harvard Law School, BA from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
    On Asia: "We're working to be more culturally relevant to how people interact with us."
    On China: "There is a misconception of whether Google is returning to China. Google never left."

    Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal's Yun-Hee Kim spoke with Google's Daniel Alegre, president, Japan and Asia-Pacific operations, to talk about the company's strategy, as well as the trends and challenges in managing an Internet firm in Asia. The following is an edited version of the interview.

    WSJ: What are the key challenges in managing a foreign Internet company in Asia?

    Mr. Alegre: We're an American company where English is the predominant language that we speak at headquarters. When we entered markets like China, Japan and Korea, we found that a number of the truly talented people who could join the company actually didn't speak English. We've changed our policy in those markets so that we do hire people that meet our hiring criteria in terms of strong academics, strong industry background but we no longer make it a necessity for them to speak English. We need to be more locally relevant in terms of the way we approach the talent pool from a language perspective to ensure we have the best in each market. Another challenge is keeping local traditions because we want people to realize that even though we are a global company, we are locally receptive to their nuances and their cultures.

    WSJ: Are there any mistakes you've made as a manager and what lessons did you take from them?

    Mr. Alegre: As Google was growing and consolidating our purchases, one Christmas we decided we were going to give away clocks to our clients. We sent them everywhere around the world to our partners. We didn't realize though that if you send a clock to Chinese partners it's actually considered a very offensive gift because it means your time is up.

    That is an example of us realizing very quickly that the concept of "we're an American company and we're going to operate as an American company and export our values across the world" wasn't going to work. In terms of hiring, we're working to be more culturally relevant to how people interact with our company as well as the Google community. Small nuances are also important for us to ensure that we leverage the strength of being an multinational company but locally we're really seen as a local Internet player.

    WSJ: In Japan, Google's market share still trails Yahoo Inc. What's your strategy to grow in the Japanese market?

    Mr. Alegre: First of all, we are looking at the needs of people, not at competitors, as a way to grow in Japan. Responding to the distinct needs of people in Japan has been our main focus. It has taken us time but the hard work has served us well—as anyone looking at our increasing popularity in Japan would notice. Second, let's remember that Google is more than just web search—YouTube, Maps, Apps, Android and Google Earth are just a few examples. We will be able to attract more people by improving these products as well as introducing new ones. Our latest search tool that allows people to pick out recipes from the Web and order them in terms of ingredients and was first developed in Japan before it came to the U.S.

    WSJ: What are some of the trends you're seeing in the online-advertising space?

    Mr. Alegre: In markets that are very developed, like South Korea or Japan, because 3G networks are so pervasive and commute times are very long, the migrations to mobile are much faster than anywhere else in the world. This means that we really need to be thinking of ourselves as a mobile-first company whereas in other markets, we might be thinking about launching something for the PC. In Asia, we really need to think about how consumers interact with search. How do people leverage maps and location-based services on mobile phones and how should ads be shown to consumers on mobile phones?

    WSJ: Will Asia overtake North America in terms of online-advertising revenue?

    Mr. Alegre: I think it'll still be some time. Asia is moving much quicker. The time frame it takes Asia to become a significant revenue component for the company is short as a result of this new wave of Internet addiction.

    WSJ: What are you doing in this region to beef up your social-networking capabilities?

    Mr. Alegre: We are investing heavily in YouTube. From a consumer standpoint, we're closing content deals with local players everywhere across Asia. We're also promoting social features for YouTube in our markets everywhere. That's starting to bear fruit in our markets where YouTube is present. Globally, we're weaving social triggers into our search results. You get Twitter feeds on Google searches.

    WSJ: Any update on the Asia roll-out plans for Google TV software that allows people to watch and search cable, satellite and Web programming as well as access regular Web pages through TVs and set-top boxes?

    Mr. Alegre: We're in discussions with a number of international players. I can't preempt any of the announcements that might be coming. We're very happy with the progress that we've made so far with Google TV. It's an area that fits very well with our vision. Not only are we going to work with TV manufacturers around the world, but we also want to localize our product and make it available in many markets as possible.

    WSJ: Give us an update on your China business.

    Mr. Alegre: I think there is a misconception of whether Google is returning to China. Google never left China. We continue to service our customers as well as our advertisers. There are very large opportunities not only in terms of search but export as well.

    WSJ: Have your run-ins with the Chinese government hindered your abilities to launch Android-based devices in China?

    Mr. Alegre: I wouldn't say so. The importance of Android is that it's an open-source platform. Anyone can use it. Because of that flexibility, China Mobile launched a number of Android phones so we're not really limited in terms of the Android penetration. They are being received very, very well not only in China but in Japan and Korea. So I wouldn't say that our redirection of search to Hong Kong has in any way hindered us.

    WSJ: In the wake of the earthquake in Japan and having a big presence in that market, how is Google coping?

    Mr. Alegre: I was in the Tokyo office when the earthquake struck. One of the things that amazed me was the calm, immediate response of our Japan Googlers. They started working on our crisis-response tools even as the aftershocks rocked the building. That's a huge focus for our engineering team right now—what can we do to help people find information—from practical info around planned power outages, to pulling together critical data around missing people or those in shelters. There's nothing you learn in business school that teaches you how to deal with something like this.But, to me, the grass-roots response from our Googlers reflects the real soul of the company.


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