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Lessons Learned from Google's Attempts into Asian Markets

With their new book “How Google Works,” top Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg lay out all of the lessons they learned while helping to build the tech giant. In the early 2000s, Google and other tech companies set their sights on Asia to see if they could break into the market there. Below, a look at lessons learned by Schmidt and Rosenberg through their attempts at the Asian market.

(1) They were divided about entering the Chinese market.

“From a business standpoint, entering China was not a controversial decision,” write the authors of their 2004 inaugural venture into the Chinese market. “But while the business indicators all pointed to a slam dunk decision to get involved, the don’t-be-evil indicators were much more mixed.”

A major concern was the censorship of information and the ethical issues involved in participating in that process. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, they write, was against entering China from the beginning. Born in the former U.S.S.R., Brin immigrated to the United States as a child and did not want to support the Communist government in China. Despite this, the company eventually did create a Google China subsidy and opened an office in Beijing.

(2) The Chinese government’s censorship requests were vast.

While Google did initially agree to follow local censorship laws, executives were continually surprised by the content they were asked to remove. “[Many] of the censorship requests we received were intended to suppress links to content that didn’t violate any clear, written law,” they noted. Google was asked to block pages including potential online scandals and searches related to topics like genitalia and jokes about pornography.

(3) It’s important to look around, literally.

During a 2006 Beijing visit to promote Google’s Chinese site, Schmidt ended up sitting under a framed photo of Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh during one high-profile interview. “The US press, which was already ambivalent about Google entering China, had a field day with that one,” they write.

(4) Their decision to stop censoring search results was not well-received.

After a massive hacker attack in 2009 that targeted hundreds of email addresses, Google decided to stop censoring search results in China the following year, announcing it publicly in January 2010.

“The morning we made the announcement, we got several calls from government officials to our Beijing office wondering if it was some sort of joke,” Schmidt and Rosenberg write. “No one does this, one of them told us. Everyone just leaves quietly.”

(5) Were there lessons learned from their Indian experience?

Readers may be wondering where India -- a burgeoning hub of technology -- factors into the tech giant's narrative. In this publication, that remains a mystery, as Schmidt and Rosenberg barely mention India in the 284-page book.


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