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After Reliance Jio, Google Backs Airtel With $1 Bn Investment

After Reliance Jio, Google Backs Airtel With $1 Bn Investment

Airtel has allotted 71,176,839 equity shares at INR 734 per share to Google for 1.28% equity

Airtel and Google will work together to build on a range of affordable Android-enabled devices, enhance cloud solutions and build 5G use cases

This is Google’s second investment in the Indian telecom sector after Reliance Jio

Bharti Airtel has announced that Google will invest up to $1 Bn in the telecom major as part of its Google for India Digitisation Fund. The deal includes an infusion of $700 Mn via equity investment and $300 Mn towards potential multi-year commercial agreements.

According to a regulatory filing, as seen by Inc42, Airtel has allotted 71,176,839 equity shares at INR 734 per share to Google International LLC aggregating to INR 5,224 Cr (approx $695.6 Mn). Google will, thus, acquire a 1.28% stake in Airtel, and invest another $300 Mn towards potential multi-year commercial agreements.

Similar to Google backing Reliance Jio in mid-2020, the partnership with Airtel is aimed at enabling access to affordable smartphones, building use cases for 5G and other standards, and helping accelerate the cloud ecosystem for businesses across India.

As a part of its first commercial agreement, Airtel and Google will work together to build on a range of affordable Android-enabled devices in partnership with various device manufacturers.

Previously, Google has announced plans to launch 4G/5G handsets in partnership with Reliance Jio and build an Android-based smartphone OS for affordable devices. Reliance Jio was also expected to add a budget-friendly laptop to its low-cost bevvy of offerings, in partnership with Google.

The current partnership between the tech giant and Airtel comes on the back of the network operator already using Google’s 5G-ready Evolved Packet Core & Software Defined Network platforms.

With the partnership aimed at furthering cloud capabilities in India, Airtel plans to explore scaling up the deployment of Google’s network virtualisation solutions to deliver a superior network experience to its customers.

With Airtel serving 1 Mn+ small and medium businesses in India with its enterprise connectivity offering, both the companies will also focus on accelerating the digital transformation journeys of Indian SMBs.

Google’s Digital India Fund

In July 2020, Google, during its virtual ‘Google For India’ event had announced an investment of INR 75,000 Cr or $10 Bn in India under the ‘India Digitisation Fund’ to help the country unleash the potential of its digital economy.

The US-based technology company said that the fund would invest in India through a mix of equity investments, partnerships and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. Interestingly, out of a total of four network operators in the country — three private and one public — Google now holds a substantial stake in two of the private telecoms.

The tech giant has previously made it abundantly clear that it aims to contribute towards four objectives — providing affordable internet access to all, building India-centric products and services, getting SMBs online and leveraging AI for social good with investments in sectors such as agritech and healthtech, among others.

Google also hosts a startup accelerator program, to further the company’s plans in investing in India’s startup ecosystem. Most recently, the tech giant had announced a cohort of 20 startups that would receive training, funds as well as Google’s network to grow.