Google is in negotiations to invest $4 billion in Jio Platforms, an Indian digital conglomerate spun off from a huge multinational company, Reliance Industries, led by Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in Asia, with an estimated fortune of $71.4 billion.
Google’s projected investment would be part of the more than $15.2 billion the company has raised in the last nine weeks, with participation from leading investment funds and players like Qualcomm ($97 million), Catterton ($250 million), TPG ($600 million), the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority ($750 million) and Mubadala ($1.2 billion), General Atlantic ($870 million), Silver Lake ($1.35 billion), el fondo público de inversión de Arabia Saudí ($1.5 billion), Vista Equity Partners ($1.5 billion), KKR ($1,5 billion) and Facebook ($5,7 billion), among others. And with all that, it has still sold less than 25% of its shares, and still has companies like Microsoft, with which it has a strategic alliance, also allegedly interested in buying into the company.
But what is Jio Platforms and why had almost nobody heard of it until these big players started showing an interest? The company was formed very recently, in November 2019, as a spin-off from a large Mumbai-based multinational conglomerate involved in businesses as diverse as energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, distribution and telecommunications, which two decades ago was being fought over after the death of its founder. At the time of its spin-off, its parent company absorbed a debt of $15 billion in exchange for its shares, with the idea of concentrating all its digital initiatives in a debt-free entity with growth potential.
And since then, that’s exactly what it’s done: grow. Basically, it’s replicated Jack Ma and Alibaba’s strategy in China: fast growth that tries to meet the digital needs of the inhabitants of a country of 1.38 billion people like India, a very attractive investment proposition. In many ways, we are witnessing the birth of modern India, following a pandemic that has seen data consumption rise sharply as many of its inhabitants realized the enormous importance of technology in keeping them connected with the news, their families and their friends. Jio Platforms is built on the telecommunications business of its operator Jio: almost four hundred million mobile phone users willing to purchase products and services in areas such as e-commerce, streaming content, payment methods, education or health care.
Its strategy to attract new users was based on offering free voice calls for seven months, which allowed it to grow well above its main competitor, the more traditional Airtel. From there, the idea is, logically, to combine that increase in market share with an ambitious growth in customer share: each customer acquires more and more products and services from the company. A company capable of achieving something like this in a market as large and with as much potential as India, can be sure it won’t lack either the resources or the chance to negotiate them well.
Although its parent company, Reliance Industries, is listed on the Mumbai and New York stock exchanges, Jio Platforms, which aims for a valuation of around $100 billion, has not yet announced plans to go public, which analysts say will take place in the United States sometime next year. For the time being, Jio Platforms is the go-to company for international investment funds looking to invest in the huge Indian market, and with the possibility of becoming one of the most important technology companies in the world.
During a pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill, Jio was aggressively developing its expansion strategy, closing deals like there was no tomorrow, and positioning itself as the cornerstone of the Indian digital market. That’s simply called not wasting time.
About the Author
This article was written by Enrique Dans, professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com.