Google vows to help one million UK SMBs remain open

The tech giant is offering 10,000 hours of free mentoring over the course of 12 months

Google has announced an initiative to help one million small British businesses and charities stay open by providing mentoring on how to be found online.

The tech giant will offer 10,000 hours of free mentoring over the course of 12 months as well as £25 million worth of advertising credits and grants, which will be distributed to small businesses, government agencies and NGOs.

The company also pledged to upskill 100,000 people in digital skills by the end of 2021, as a part of the Google Digital Garage free training programme. 

Google’s decision to help UK businesses is justified by an Ipsos research study which found that 90% of people had visited a business if it had shared images on Google Search and Google Maps.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, SMBs accounted for three-fifths of the employment in the UK and for around half of turnover in the UK private sector in late 2019. However, many small businesses, such as pubs, restaurants, shops and hair salons, were adversely impacted as the country went into lockdown in March 2020.

Google UK managing director Ronan Harris called Britain’s local businesses "the lifeblood of our communities”. 

“Like millions up and down the country, we want to help small businesses both survive and thrive," he said. "Through this programme we’re aiming to upskill SMEs and charities by helping them adapt to operating in a post lockdown environment. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, we want to show that having an online presence can have a transformative impact on offline businesses."

Google’s new Open for Business initiative was welcomed by the UK government. Responding to the announcement, chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said that UK’s small businesses “form the backbone of the British economy, fuelling growth and creating jobs in communities across the country”. 

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“This has been a difficult time for them, and that’s why I am delighted that today Google have announced this plan to help small businesses recover from the crisis," he said.

"We will all play a part in this national effort to get the UK open for business again safely. Google’s initiative to support our smallest firms is a great step forward in getting our economy back on track.”

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