Yesterday, noted American investment firm General Atlantic picked up a 1.34 percent stake in Jio Platforms, the holding company of Reliance Jio — the largest telecom operator of India. The investment of Rs 6,598.38 crore comes on the back of similarly sizeable investments by Silver Lake (Rs 5,655.75 crore for 1.15 percent), Vista Equity Partners (Rs 11,367 crore for 2.3 percent) and the world's largest social media corporation, Facebook (Rs 43,574 crore for 9.99 percent). With total assets of Rs 2.57 lakh crore under management across numerous scripts globally, General Atlantic is a prolific investor in technology platforms, and its interest in Jio Platforms further cements the operator's growing stature and influence in India's quest for technological advancement.
On this note, Moneycontrol.com recently caught up with Sandeep Naik, managing director and head of India and South-East Asia for General Atlantic, to discuss the company's outlook towards its investment in Reliance Jio, and the overall technology sector of India. Here are the key excerpts.
What common characteristics did General Atlantic see between Jio Platforms and other tech focused companies in its global portfolio?
For 40 years, tech enablement has been a core tenant of the businesses in which we invest, and we have a long history of backing entrepreneurs driving positive change and global disruption. Now more than ever, we view the adoption and acceleration of digital as critical in driving social and economic growth. We believe Jio is uniquely positioned to democratize data and digital services across the country and advance India to a position as a global leader in the digital economy.
What is General Atlantic’s outlook on the opportunities in terms of penetration of data and digital services in India?
India has made enormous strides in the digital space, and we have even more runway ahead of us to continue advancing. There is vast potential for growth in terms of purchasing power, and we see many digital ecosystems springing up across diverse sectors. We believe Jio is at the forefront of this digital revolution in India and we are thrilled to be backing the company as it works towards creating a holistic Digital Society for India.
What are the specific strategic areas where General Atlantic believes it can assist Reliance Jio to further accelerate digital connectivity in India?
General Atlantic has a 40-year track record of backing innovation and entrepreneurship globally, and nearly two decades of experience of investing in technology companies in India and helping them scale. We feel that this deep expertise positions us well to support the Jio team as they look to solve the needs of Bharat and leverage connectivity to promote innovation, inclusivity, and growth across the country.
Has the global outbreak of COVID-19 opened a floodgate of opportunities for new age digital firms as compared to the old economy ones? What is the General Atlantic view?
We believe that the impact of COVID-19 has changed behaviors and considerably accelerated the adoption of digital technologies. At General Atlantic, we think this can be a catalyst for positive change in terms of efficiencies, inclusion and overcoming physical barriers, and as a result, we expect accelerated growth and expanded investment and entrepreneurial activity in many sectors.
Does General Atlantic see any potential synergies in India between its latest investment in Jio Platforms and its other bets in the tech space like Byju’s, Unacademy , NoBroker and Billdesk?
We did not invest in Jio on the premise of any specific synergies with our business in our portfolio. That said, we strive to find areas of collaboration across all of our global portfolio where appropriate to do so, including for the purposes of best practice sharing and lessons learned as these high-growth companies scale.
Will General Atlantic look to invest more in consumer technology startups in India, including at the early growth stage? If yes, what are the deal sizes we can expect?
In India, we focus on supporting the entrepreneurs who are addressing the real needs of Bharat and leading innovation in business models through digitization and digital disruption. We continue to see compelling opportunities in this realm and will continue with our strategy of backing local entrepreneurs solving real Bharat specific needs.
Other than the digital segment, which other Indian sectors excite GA in terms of fresh investments?
We continue to see exciting opportunities across all four of our sectors – Technology, Financial Services, Healthcare, and Consumer. In today’s environment, we are particularly focused on the ability of technology across many different types of businesses to overcome barriers and address critical needs, particularly in dealing with the vast challenges posed by the pandemic.