Facebook Invests Big In Reliance Jio

…Securing Stake In India’s Tech Sector


By Catherine Sbeglia

Facebook is making a US$5.7 billion investment in Reliance Jio, translating to a 9.99 per cent stake in the Indian mobile carrier’s operations.

Facebook spoke of the development on its corporate website where comments made by chief revenue officer, David Fischer and VP and India managing director, Ajit Mohan stated that it is now the carrier’s largest minority shareholder.

The statement went on to explain that India is experiencing a “rapid adoption of digital technologies” and that in past five years alone, more than 560 million people in the country have gained internet access, making India a critical and powerful player in the digital future and why numerous tech giants like Google, Alibaba, Tencent and Amazon have been infusing the company’s internet and communications sector with funds.

Reliance Jio is part of the larger, multi-industry conglomerate Reliance Industries, which is worth an estimated US$57 billion. When Reliance Jio was launched nearly four years ago, it caused a big shake up in India’s telecoms hierarchy because it offered low-cost, nationwide cellular broadband service, and ultimately, provided the Internet for the first time to tens of millions of people, directly resulting in a surge of Facebook users.

Lately, Reliance Industries has been laser focused on furthering its media and entertainment reach, investing in TV groups and developing media content and production studios.

Reliance Jio is, of course, an excellent vehicle for furthering Reliance Industries’ media involvement. At the moment, the carrier has a music streaming service JioSaavn, a live television service JioTV and a payments service JioPay, as well as a minatory stake in the Bollywood distributor and streaming platform Eros International and a pending merger with STX Entertainment.

According to Facebook, part of the collaboration will involve bringing together JioMart, Jio’s small business initiative, with WhatsApp, the social media platform’s messaging app that has become wildly popular in India.

By doing so, claimed Fischer and Mohan, Facebook can “enable people to connect with businesses, shop and ultimately purchase products in a seamless mobile experience.”

“WhatsApp is so ingrained in Indian life that it has become a commonly used verb across many Indian languages and dialects,” they added.

In a Facebook post, the social media platform’s Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that getting Indian people and small businesses online is “especially important right now.”

“Small businesses are the core of every economy and they need our support. India has more than 60 million small businesses and millions of people rely on them for jobs,” he said. “With communities around the world in lockdown, many of these entrepreneurs need digital tools they can rely on to find and communicate with customers and grow their businesses. This is something we can help with.”

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