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Jio Platforms: How India Is Pushing Back Chinese Influence On The Internet

An Indian smartphone customer from Jio uses an average of 11 gigabytes of data volume per month. 11 gigabytes, if you factor in the use of WiFi, that's world class. Even in heavily industrialized and digitized countries like South Korea, Japan or Great Britain, mobile data usage is not as intensive as it is in India. Which shows: Indian consumers are more dependent on a mobile data connection than almost any other country.

Jio Platforms is primarily a wireless service provider that has managed to acquire more than 370 million customers in just a few years. For comparison: there are around 380 million mobile phone users in the entire EU and around 260 million in the USA. Jio, a subsidiary of the industrial giant Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), has grown in just a few years to a market size that is otherwise only available in the western world and of course in China. And because Western (i.e. US) investors in China have little chance of getting involved, they are doing so now in India - and with Jio.

Google as the next investor

Google is the next investor in Jio, the US Internet company is investing $ 4.5 billion in the company into which Facebook, Intel and Qualcomm have already invested billions. This year, Jio Platforms, which was spun off from RIL in 2019, has already secured almost $ 20 billion in investment.

The current cap table looks like this:

  • Reliance Industries Limited (67,06%)
  • Facebook (9,99%)
  • Google (7,7%)
  • KKR (2,32%)
  • Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (2,32%)
  • Vista Equity Partners (2,32%)
  • Silver Lake Partners (2,08%)
  • Mubadala Investment Company (1,85%)
  • General Atlantic (1,34%)
  • Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (1,16%)
  • TPG Capital (0,93%)
  • L Catterton (0,39%)
  • Intel Capital (0,39%)
  • Qualcomm (0,15%)

The fact that investors from the USA and the Arab world are so keen on Jio Platforms can be seen from the little word Platforms. Jio is not just a low-cost mobile operator that initially attracted millions of customers with free calls, free SMS, free gigabytes and cheap smartphones. Jio is developing into a portal to the Internet for these users and offers music streaming, video streaming, news, games, cloud services, chats, VoIP and even a health portal where health and fitness data can be processed. This is strongly reminiscent of AOL's approach in the US in the 1990s. Internet connection and web services, all from a single source. With Jio, not on the home computer, but on the smartphone.

"Secure stake before it's too late"

“Facebook, Google and Co. find the last big growth market in India. They already have an extremely high market penetration with their own products, ”says Wolfgang Bergthaler, an expert on the Indian Internet market. “Virtually all (!) Indians use WhatsApp as a messenger. For products and platforms that require a higher level of localization, however, Indian platforms are ahead. They want to secure a stake on it now, before it's too late. "

Also interesting to see: While Google and Facebook are investing in Jio Platforms and are looking for proximity to India's richest man, RIL boss Mukesh Ambani, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and his “Digital India” strategy, their competitors are also investing. Walmart has just increased its stake in the Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart, and Amazon announced in early 2020 that it would invest another billion dollars in India.

There are two reasons why Indian politics and business are welcoming the American Internet billions with open arms. On the one hand, Jio Platform urgently needs this money in order to be able to afford its strong growth, which was fueled by price dumping, at all. On the other hand, geopolitical considerations play an important role.

Chinese investors and apps are being pushed out

"American tech companies are actively invited to push back the Chinese influence," says Bergthaler. “Chinese investors have been extremely aggressive for a long time. But now they should be pushed out again if Modi has its way. ”His ministry for information technology recently banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat. The accusation: The apps would suck up data and undermine the sovereignty of the country.

The TikTok ban is also a message between the lines to the West: You are welcome to invest in India. But if you just suck up data, then we can quickly throw you out of the second largest internet market in the world.