In the past few weeks, Reliance Jio's technology platform, aptly named Jio Platforms, has been truly showing its prowess in the global technology space. The line of foreign investments began with the world's largest social media company, Facebook. At $5.7 billion, or Rs 43,574 crore deal, Facebook bought a 9.99 percent stake in Reliance Jio. Following this, it was confirmed that Jio Platforms received a second big ticket investment with Silver Lake, which infused Rs 5,655.75 crore for a 1.15 percent stake. This was followed by Vista Equity Partners, American investment firm, which bought a 2.3 percent stake in Jio Platforms, worth Rs 11,367 crore. Yesterday, the fourth chapter of investments in Jio Platforms unfurled, with fellow American investment firm General Atlantic acquiring a 1.34 percent stake worth Rs 6,598.38 crore. All of the investments come as a major acknowledgement of Jio Platforms' growing stature in the burgeoning Indian technology space, and India's position in the global technology landscape.
In the midst of all this, the company had announced the formal launch of JioMeet, its video conferencing solution. JioMeet will be a part of Jio Platforms. It will be available on the Google Play Store for Android devices, the Apple App Store for the iPhone, iPad and Mac devices as well as the Microsoft Store for Windows devices. On the Google Play Store, JioMeet already has over 100,000 installs, even before the service was commercially announced.
Reliance Jio and its investments in India, particularly in the telecom space, have changed the very dynamics of the industry. This is the time when Jio Platforms evolves as technology company that has expertise in multiple domains. Jio is already present in the broadband space, smart devices, cloud and edge computing, Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented and Mixed Reality as well as blockchain Blockchain. The money invested by Facebook and Silver Lake will help the company achieve what it calls a Digital India vision for 1.3 billion people and businesses across the country, including small businesses, micro-businesses and farmers.
The Facebook deal gives Jio Platforms access to WhatsApp in a way no other tech company or otherwise, have had before. The Reliance Retail’s New Commerce business gets to use WhatsApp as the platform for pushing JioMart, its digital commerce platform. As of July, last year, there were more than 400 million active WhatsApp users in India. And counting. The vision for this project is to bring the nearby stores to consumers on WhatsApp, where they can browse the listings of what is in stock and what is available and place the orders on the platform itself. The nearby Kirana shops will get access to a platform they probably would have never had access to before, with a massive demographic of users potentially tapped in one fine swoop. And there are millions of these small merchants and Kirana stores across India.
What does this do for Facebook? The idea is to allow people to pay for what they order on JioMart through WhatsApp, using WhatsApp Pay. The much-awaited UPI mobile payments service got the approvals from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in February, for what will be a phased roll-out. The first phase will mean 10 million users. This will also fit in perfectly with the Government of India’s push for digital payments, as part of the Digital India mission.
Facebook surely has Paytm, the incredibly popular mobile payments and shopping platform, in its sights. As of August, Paytm had planned an injection of Rs 750 crore to clock 250 million monthly users by the end of the financial year. That is the user demographic that Facebook will be looking at. It won’t be a challenge to find these users though, because chances are high that almost every single one of these 250 million Paytm users will also have WhatsApp installed on their phones. It will be interesting to see where Jio Money, which is a digital payments platform, fits into all this.
What does this mean for Silver Lake? This investment in Jio Platforms follows Silver Lake’s investments in other tech companies, including Airbnb, Alibaba, Ant Financial, Alphabet’s Verily and Waymo units, Dell Technologies and Twitter, to name a few. Their investment portfolio looks rather robust with the who is who of the tech world—across domains including e-commerce, shared economy, software, internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, cloud-based platforms and automotive tech. They clearly see value in Jio Platforms as an emerging serious tech company, and the technology as well as services that Jio Platforms already has, or plans to invest in. JioMeet is one example, and so are the potential volumes that JioMart could generate on WhatsApp. Factor in the biggest push the broadband space in India has ever received, with the COVID pandemic ensuring a significant change in work cultures, and Jio Platform’s arsenal of tools looks incredibly robust.
With Vista Equity and now General Atlantic, Jio Platforms further gets sound asset investors, who have been known to single out major technology players across the globe. Going forward, Jio Platforms can play a critical new role in shaping India's technological landscape, much like the way it did in the telecom industry with Reliance Jio's mobile data revolution.