Google’s $4.5 Billion Investment in Reliance Jio, and the Potential of India’s Telecom Industry

Google’s $4.5 Billion Investment in Reliance Jio, and the Potential of India’s Telecom Industry

A day after Qualcomm invested $97 million in Reliance Jio, Google joined the ranks of other high profile firms to back the Indian company. The search giant is investing $4.5 billion for a 7.73% stake in the leading Indian telecom.

Google became the latest Silicon Valley company to grace the Indian telecom industry that is rapidly growing. Facebook is backing Reliance Jio with $5.7 billion for a 9.99% stakes. This marks the first time Google and Facebook are throwing their financial weight behind the same company.

Reliance Jio has in a period of four years, become the most valuable company in India, amassing over 400 million subscribers to beat its competitors.

Google’s investment in Jio puts its valuation at $58 billion. The two companies are working on a customized-version of Android operating system to develop low-cost, entry-level smartphones to serve hundreds of millions unserved in India.

Reliance Jio’s owner Ambani said the deal is to develop smartphones that will support Google Play and future wireless standard 5G.

Google has on Monday, rolled $10 billion for digital infrastructure in India, as part of Google’s India’s mission. Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai said the aim of Jio’s partnership is to put smartphones at the hands of more Indians.

“Getting technology into the hands of more people is a big part of Google’s mission. Together we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners off smartphones. This effort will unlock new opportunities, further power the vibrant ecosystem of applications and push innovation to drive growth for the new Indian economy,” he said.

Google’s recent interest in India depicts how the rest of the world sees the Asian country at the wake of trade conflict between the US and China that is jeopardizing business interest for many companies. More companies are seeing India as an alternate destination to China, and companies of Indian origin are positioning themselves to take advantage of the situation.

Jio, which already has a variety of services on its platform is keen on using this opportunity to widen its digital capacity in India, and thus cement its dominance.

“Jio, for its part, has made an extraordinary contribution to India’s technological progress over the past decade. Its investment to expand telecommunications infrastructure, low-cost phones and affordable internet have changed the way its hundreds of millions of subscribers find news and information, communicate with one another, use services and run businesses,” said Pichai, he added that “today, Jio is increasing its focus on the development of areas like digital services, education, healthcare and entertainment that can support economic growth and social inclusion at a critical time in the country’s history.”

Jio Platforms have raised about $20.2 billion in the past four months from 13 investors, selling 33% stake in the firm. India has become a top choice to investors. Indian startup ecosystem raised $14.5 billion in 2019, and with a booming demographic for digital innovation, it is set to attract more investors as political and economic factors are pushing the tides to its advantage.

China dominates Indian smartphone market, with Alibaba and Tencent as the major investors. The recent border conflict between China and India seems to have opened an opportunity for India to put its indigenous companies ahead.

Smartphones made in China are expensive for Indians, making it difficult for many for many to own smartphones. The Google and Jio partnership will produce affordable phones that will bridge the gap of the unserved and underserved.

India has a huge population of 700 million phone users, but it also means there is still huge potential for growth. There are over 300 million people who are yet to own smartphones. The gap appears to be attracting investors who are willing to commit more money to India.

The more people own smartphones, the more digital opportunity there is in India. From ecommerce to fintech to social media, investors see untapped mines.

“One of the exciting success stories has been the digitization of small businesses. Just four years ago, only one-third of all small businesses in India had an online presence. Today, 26 million SMBs are now discoverable on Search and Maps, driving connections with more than 150 million users every month.

“What’s more, small merchants across the country are now equipped to accept digital payments. This has made it possible for more small businesses to become part of the formal economy, and it improves their access to credit,” said Pichai.

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