As it looks for a new way to hop into India’s hot mobile market, Google may be ready to take on rival Facebook, which has backed the dominant Indian telecom Jio Platforms.
Now, Google is exploring the prospect of buying about 5 percent of Vodafone Idea, a partnership between the U.K. telecom company and India’s Aditya Birla Group, according to the Financial Times.
The partnership is reportedly under financial strain in the current economic climate, as India has been under a coronavirus lockdown for the past two months.
Jio, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries of India, has in recent weeks nabbed $10 billion in investments from Facebook and private equity groups including KKR, Vista Equity Partners and Silver Lake.
As reported by PYMNTS this month, New York-based General Atlantic has closed an $870 million deal for a 1.3 percent stake in Jio. Meanwhile, Jio has hopped onboard with the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to compete alongside big-name rivals like Google Pay, PhonePe and Paytm. Jio would be the first telecom to offer a UPI service and the second among payment banks to offer the service.
If Google bought a stake in Vodaphone Idea, it could be part of an overall investment plan for India. Google’s interest in the country spotlights its healthy market, where telecom operators can have hundreds of millions of subscribers.
“Jio was able to attract this money first; now everyone else wants to play catch-up,” Anshuman Mishra told the Financial Times. Mishra, who advises Asian corporations on strategy, noted that “there aren’t that many options for big foreign tech companies to invest in India.”
In other news, regulators in India are looking at Google over antitrust issues amid charges that the tech giant is using its market dominance to unfairly pitch its mobile payments app. Google offers its Google Pay app as part of its Android app store in India, and Google Pay allows users in India to conduct inter-bank fund transfers and bill payments.