Google will invest $700 million in India’s second-largest telecoms operator Airtel, the latest in a series of bets the company has placed on the world’s second-largest internet market as part of a $10 billion commitment to the country.
Google said it will invest $700 million to acquire a 1.28% stake in Airtel, which has amassed more than 400 million subscribers in India and other markets, and will pour up to $300 million more to explore multi-tier commercial deals. years with telco.
For starters, the two companies said they will work to build Airtel’s extensive offerings to cover a range of Android-enabled devices for consumers through “innovative accessibility programs.” The companies also said they will explore partnerships with smartphone makers to “bring down the barriers to owning a smartphone at a range of prices.”
“Airtel is a leading pioneer shaping India’s digital future and we are proud to partner on a shared vision to expand connectivity and ensure equitable internet access for more Indians,” said Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive of Google and Alphabet, in a statement. .
“Our commercial and equity investment in Airtel is a continuation of the Google for India Digitization Fund’s efforts to increase smartphone access, enhance connectivity to support new business models and help companies on their digital transformation journey.”
Friday’s announcement comes at a time when Airtel and Vodafone are fighting over ways to pay off billions of dollars they owe New Delhi. Vodafone donated more than 35% to New Delhi earlier this month, making the Indian government its biggest shareholder.
Vodafone and Airtel compete with Jio Platforms, run by the richest man in Asia, Mukesh Ambani. Jio Platforms has amassed over 400 million subscribers in India thanks to its low-rate voice and data offerings. Google invested $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms in 2020. Facebook and nearly a dozen other companies supported the Ambani-controlled company that year.
Airtel said on Friday it will explore “greater strategic goals” with Google and “potentially” co-create India-specific network domain use cases for 5G and other standards. The companies also plan to collaborate on the “shape and growth” of India’s cloud ecosystem, they said. Airtel, which already serves more than 1 million small and medium-sized businesses with its enterprise connectivity offering, said Friday’s announcement “will help accelerate digital adoption.”
“Airtel and Google share a vision to increase India’s digital dividend through innovative products. With our future-ready network, digital platforms, last-mile distribution and payments ecosystem, we look forward to working closely with Google to increase the depth and breadth of India’s digital ecosystem,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, President of Bharti Airtel, in a statement.
With more than 600 million internet users – and many more yet to come online – India is one of the last big growth markets for American technology groups. Both Google and Facebook have run programs over the past decade to bring Internet connectivity to tens of millions of Indians.
This is a developing story. More to follow…