Google to pump in $1 Bn in Airtel; to pick 1.28% in Indian telco

The Google investment comes as it believes that Airtel is at the forefront of shaping India’s digital future.

India’s status as the world’s second largest internet market has tech behemoths like Google eyeing more stake in it.  In what could be a landmark event, Google has now lined up investment to the tune of $1 billion in the country’s telecom giant Airtel.

As part of the plan, Airtel will see Google pump in $700 million to pick up 1.28 per cent stake in Airtel. Besides this, another $300 million will be spent on explore multi-year commercial agreements with India’s second largest telecom operator.

An extension of Google for India Digitization Fund

With the deal, Airtel and Google will be looking towards expanding the telecom operator’s offerings in India so that it would cover a wider range of Android gadgets through what they call “innovative affordability programs”. Further, the two companies would also look towards tying up with smartphone companies to prompt the manufacture of affordable smart devices, said a report.

Google believes that Airtel is at the forefront of shaping India’s digital future, and the partnership would help expand connectivity and ensure equitable access to the Internet for more people in India. Google’s investment in Airtel may be seen as an extension of the technology major’s Google for India Digitization Fund which aims at pushing up smartphones access, better connectivity and handholding companies in their path towards digital transformation.

Google-Jio partnership

It needs to be recalled that in year 2020, Google had pumped in $4.5 billion in the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Jio platforms. Google had also partnered Jio towards building a custom Android smartphone aimed at the masses. However, that hasn’t worked as expected as the price factor wasn’t something that was accessible to the masses.

For Airtel, the Google investment could come as a boon. Airtel and rival Vodafone have been in trouble of late with no means to repay billions they owe to the government. As Airtel had been trying hard to find ways to clear itself of debt, Vodafone had gone ahead and transferred 35 per cent ownership to the government.

Would Google’s investment give some relief to Airtel will be known in the coming days. Airtel wants to look deeper for strategic goals with the technology behemoth and work towards putting in place an India-specific network domain use cases for 5G. We will have to wait a bit more to know more on these plans.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »
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