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Google invests $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms, doubles down on India

All eyes on the next billion users.

Published onJuly 15, 2020

  • Google has acquired a 7.7% stake in Jio as part of $4.5 billion investment.
  • Jio is the largest telecom operator in India with 387.5 million subscribers.
  • Google and Jio will also build a “value-engineered Android-based OS.”

As part of its Annual General Meeting, Jio has announced that Google is investing Rs. 33,737 crores (~$4.5 billion) in the telecom operator’s platforms initiative. This follows Google’s announcement of a $10 billion investment in India at its annual Google for India summit.

Jio is the largest telecom operator in India with over 387.5 million subscribers in the country and Google’s investment nets it a 7.7 percent stake in the company.

Jio has played a key role in pushing 4G penetration in the country, however, with less than 40% smartphone penetration, India is ripe for disruption, and today’s announcement places Google in the best possible position.

At the annual meeting, Jio announced that it plans to work with Google to build an entry-level smartphone with specific optimizations made to Android and the Play Store to accommodate bare-minimum specs . This ties in with Jio’s broader efforts to migrate the feature phone market to smarter platforms where it can incentivize its own suite of services like JioMeet and JioCinema. Jio estimates it will sell over half a billion phones over the next three years.

It will be interesting to see how this budget-focused version of Android differentiates itself from Android Go.

See more: What is Android Go and what phones run it?

In fact, the telecom giant made some surprising announcements including a fully home-grown 5G tech stack that is ready to be deployed and exported. This comes at a time when the anti-China sentiment is high in India and the country is looking at issuing a ban on HUAWEI for its upcoming 5G trials.

Google’s investment in Jio is the first as part of its $10 billion Digitisation Fund for India and it plans to extend this to other verticals like education and agriculture as well. In fact, Google announced a tie-up with India’s central education board to initiate a digital education tie-up with over a million teachers. This trial will be built around the Google Classroom suite, YouTube and might integrate Chromebooks as well.

Google joins Facebook, Intel and Qualcomm in the growing list of investors in Jio Platforms. The sheer reach of the telecom operator and wide customer base across its app portfolio makes it the obvious choice for reaching out to the next billion users.