Tech titan Google has announced plans to invest $1 billion in Indian telecommunications operator Airtel. The investment comes as a part of a $10 billion commitment Google has made to the country. Google will invest $700 million into acquiring a 1.28 percent stake in Airtel. $300 million will be geared towards multi-year commercial agreements with the telecommunication company.
With over 300 million subscribers, Airtel is the second-largest telecommunication operator and Google’s investment is quite a strategic move. Together, Google and Airtel will work to increase the latter’s offerings to cover a wide range of Android-enabled devices to consumers through what was described as “innovative affordability programs”. The duo will also work with smartphone makers on partnerships that’ll produce affordable smartphones for the populace.
A statement by Google and Alphabet’s CEO said “Airtel is a leading pioneer shaping India’s digital future, and we are proud to partner on a shared vision for expanding connectivity and ensuring equitable access to the Internet for more Indians. Our commercial and equity investment in Airtel is a continuation of our Google for India Digitization Fund’s efforts to increase access to smartphones, enhance connectivity to support new business models, and help companies on their digital transformation journey”.
The news comes on the heels of Airtel, as well as Vodafone – another telecom operator, thinking out ways to repay their debt to the Indian government. For instance, Vodafone recently gave away 35 percent ownership to New Delhi, automatically making the Indian government its largest shareholder.
Airtel also mentioned during its announcement about the deal with Google that it plans to explore “larger strategic goals” with Google which could help create India-specific network domain use cases for 5G and other standards. Among their plans also includes partnering to shape and grow India’s cloud ecosystem. Already, Airtel already serves more than 1 million small and medium-sized businesses in the country with its enterprises connectivity product. The deal with Google will go a long way in increasing adoption in India.
According to a statement by Sunil Bharti Mittal, the Chairman of Bharti Airtel, “Airtel and Google share the vision to grow India’s digital dividend through innovative products. With our future-ready network, digital platforms, last-mile distribution and payments ecosystem, we look forward to working closely with Google to increase the depth and breadth of India’s digital ecosystem”.