Google will invest up to $1 billion in India’s second-largest mobile operator, the two companies say, as the Android maker seeks to bolster its presence in the country’s vast and booming telecommunications market.
The global tech giant will buy a $700 million stake in Bharti Airtel from billionaire Sunil Mittal, giving it a 1.28% stake, the companies said in a joint statement on Friday.
The move is part of the “Google for India Digitization Fund” launched in 2020 and aimed at providing affordable smartphone access to more than a billion Indians and accelerating the use of cloud computing for businesses, they said. said the two companies.
The investment will help small Indian businesses embrace digital tools as India strives to embrace digital education, payments and e‑commerce amid the pandemic, Google said in a blog post.
Up to an additional $300 million will be invested in “mutually agreeable” business ventures over the next five years, including exploring opportunities to “break down the barriers of smartphone ownership” in the price-conscious market .
“We are proud to join in a common vision to expand connectivity and ensure equitable internet access for more Indians,” Sundar Pichai, Indian-born chief executive of Google parent company Alphabet, said in a statement. a statement.
The companies also plan to jointly develop software for 5G and other standards, he added.
Google already has a 7.7% stake in Indian market leader Reliance Jio, owned by Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, after a $4.5 billion investment in 2020.
The two companies have collaborated on a low-cost 4G-enabled smartphone which was launched in November last year.
Jio has been locked in fierce competition with Airtel and British telecommunications giant Vodafone’s local Vi unit since it launched a price war in 2016 by offering super cheap internet and free calls.
Airtel is an Indian global communications solutions provider with more than 480 million customers in 17 countries in South Asia and Africa.
Google services are accessible by more than 100 million users in India.
The tech giant has run into legal issues with India’s Competition Commission, which said the company abused its Android system’s dominant position in the smart TV market segment.
Regulators argue that smart TV makers don’t have an alternative to Android and are therefore forced to install Google’s apps.