Google invests $4.5 bil. in Jio Platforms, 5G-ready smartphone for masses in India

15, Jul. 2020

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash
Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

NEW DELHI, NNA -Tech and search giant Google is investing $4.5 billion for a 7.73 percent stake in Jio Platforms Ltd. whose meteoric rise in India has attracted many big-name investors since April.

The digital subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) will jointly develop an affordable, entry-level smartphone with Google as part of Jio's ambitious mission to bring connectivity to all Indians.

The latest announcement comes after the U.S. company unveiled a massive $10 billion plan to help accelerate India’s digital economy over the next five to seven years with investments to make search facilities in local languages and digitize local businesses, among other services.

Said RIL in a media statement on Wednesday, "The investment will build on Jio’s and Google’s existing efforts to expand the benefits of digitization across the length and breadth of India, beyond the current 500 plus million Internet users in the country."

"This effort will unlock new opportunities, further power the vibrant ecosystem of applications and push innovation to drive growth for the new Indian economy," it added.

With Google's investment, the total investment from financial and strategic investors into Jio Platforms now stands at $22.22 billion.

Mukesh Ambani, RIL chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, said in the statement, “Google has empowered millions of Indians to access helpful information and, like Jio, is a force for change and innovation. We welcome Google onboard and are excited about our partnership for what it can deliver to Indians, from universalising Internet usage to deepening the new digital economy and providing a prime mover to India’s economic growth."

Appearing also in a virtual annual general meeting on Wednesday, Ambani said the partnership will "play a strong facilitative role in the transformative journey of building a new Digital India."

In a statement, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said, “Reliance Industries and Jio Platforms, in particular, deserve a good deal of credit for India’s digital transformation. The pace and scale of digital transformation in India is hugely inspiring for us and reinforces our view that building products for India first helps us build better products for users everywhere."

On their partnership to produce the new smartphone, which will have optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store, he said, "I am excited that our joint collaboration will focus on increasing access for hundreds of millions of Indians who don’t currently own a smartphone while improving the mobile experience for all.”

Apart from having 4G connectivity, the phone will be designed to be 5G-ready. Jio Platforms and Google will build a 5G operating system to support the phone, said Ambani.

On Sunday, Jio Platforms and Qualcomm Inc. announced that they would build a digital infrastructure for 5G roll-out in India following the latter's decision to invest $97 million in the company.

Ambani said Wednesday Jio Platforms has already developed a complete 5G solution from scratch.

"It will be ready for trials as soon as 5G spectrum is available and can be ready for field deployment next year," he added.

"As India is standing at the doorsteps of the 5G era, we should accelerate the migration of 350 million Indians, who currently use a 2G feature phone, to an affordable smartphone," he said.

As the largest mobile operator in the country, it has garnered more than 388 million subscribers in just a few short years. Ambani expects Jio to bring connectivity to half a billion mobile customers in the next three years.

Jio Platforms operates a next-generation technology platform that also offers affordable digital services such as movie and music apps in India.

Facebook is its biggest investor with a 9.99 percent stake. Google's share of 7.73 percent is the second largest.