Google plunged deeper into India’s tech market by striking a $4.5 billion deal that, if approved by the country’s regulators, would give it a 7.7 percent share in Jio Platforms, according to a Wednesday (July 15) press release.
“Google and Jio Platforms have entered into a commercial agreement to jointly develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store,” Google said in the announcement. “Together we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners of smartphones.”
The investment will take a big bite out of the $10 billion Google For India Digitization Fund, announced earlier this week. For its part, Facebook has invested $5.7 billion for a 10 percent stake in Jio.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company would use the “India Digitization Fund over the next five to seven years. We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy.”
Indian billionaire business magnate Mukesh Ambani is the managing director and largest shareholder in Reliance Industries, of which Jio is a subsidiary.
Other Jio investors include Qualcomm, Intel Capital and Silver Lake Partners, which put in $750 million.
Big Tech, in general, is focusing on India because the country is seen as perhaps the hottest market on the planet. Only about half of its 1.3 billion people are currently online. At the same time, the country has gone through COVID-19 lockdowns.
The Google release said the company’s “work in India goes to the heart of our efforts to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible. We opened our first Indian campuses in Bangalore and Hyderabad in 2004. Since then, we’ve made India central to our Next Billion Users initiative — designed to ensure the internet is useful for people coming online for the first time.”