Enterprise

This Indian telco has raised more than $20 billion during the pandemic

Includes investors like Google, Facebook, and Qualcomm

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The Coronavirus pandemic has forced countries to implement strict lockdowns and curb international travel. Economies have fallen drastically due to lower spendings and rising unemployment. Healthcare has become a priority. Meanwhile, defense, as well as infrastructure costs, have been sidelined.

Work-from-home has become the norm and companies are actively trying to reduce operational costs. Investors have burned a lot of money since startups dependent on the gig economy are the worst hit. Raising funds right now is a herculean task and most start-ups are expected to go out of business in the coming months.

However, one company has taken full advantage of the pandemic-led lockdown. Officially called Jio Platforms, it’s an Indian telecom operator with more than 300 million active users. Dubbed Jio casually, it’s more than just a telecom operator and has managed to raise more than US$ 20 billion within a span of three months. Investors include marquee names like Google, Facebook, Qualcomm, Mubadala (sovereign fund of Abu Dhabi), Vista Equity, and more.

Google has also acquired a stake in Jio for US$ 4.5 billion. It has picked up 7.75 percent in the company, taking the total sale to 32.95 percent. The Google stake sale came to light immediately when the copy was ready for publishing and hence couldn’t be updated.

By Sanuj Bhatia

To be precise, Jio has raised US$ 20 billion from 13 companies by just selling a 25.2 percent stake. Considering the current investments, Jio is roughly valued at more than US$ 60 billion. What’s so special about this company that Facebook decided to splurge US$ 5.7 billion for just 9.99 percent?

India — the most promising market for any internet company

The US has always led the tech race in terms of research and innovation. With a developed economy, the market is self-fulfilling and companies are actively looking for new regions to expand to. The American influence is easily visible in western allies like the European Union, Japan, South Korea, as well as the Philippines.

India, on the other hand, is a developing economy that completely skipped the computer or laptop age and jumped onto the smartphone era. Today, it’s the world’s second-largest smartphone market, and 70 percent of the hardware is dominated by the Chinese. However, most phones run on Google’s Android, and American tech companies have been successful in expanding. This includes Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and more.

However, the telecom market remains hugely untapped. What will a smartphone do without wireless connectivity?

The rise of Jio and its ripple effects

At the beginning of 2016, 1GB of 3G data cost approximately INR 250 (US$ 3.3). Back then, Jio was completely owned and operated by Reliance Industries. Reliance is an Indian conglomerate that has its foothold in a plethora of segments including oil, retail, entertainment, and more. It’s one of India’s largest companies in terms of market cap and run by billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Just a few days ago, he became the seventh richest person on Earth, overtaking long-time contender Warren Buffet.

In a nutshell, Reliance pumped enough money into Jio and launched it in the middle of 2016. It was India’s first telco to offer pan-India 4G and the tariff was impossible to believe. For the first 6-9 months, unlimited 4G data was offered for free to lure customers from other networks like Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea. Considering Reliance’s backing, the company could afford to.

It also had an inherent advantage over telco’s because it directly rolled out 4G and did not support any previous standards. While other’s were figuring out inter-connection issues between 3G and 4G, Jio had already rolled out VoLTE. Jio only considered data as bandwidth and relied on internet protocol for calls, reducing its operational cost.

Within a year, 1GB of 4G data cost just US$ 0.2. India has the most affordable 4G in the world. Naturally, the competition couldn’t offer these rates without taking a hit on their profit as well as revenues. But, they had no option but to reduce tariffs. Slowly, companies like Aircel went out of business due to unsustainable rates. Vodafone merged with Indian player Idea to form Vodafone-Idea. By the end of 2019, the Indian market had only 3 players left — Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea.

Keep in mind, Jio has no debt due to its rich parent, Airtel has debt but can offload that with assets and equity, while Vodafone-Idea is on a ventilator. With more than 300 million subscribers, Jio is leading in terms of both, userbase as well as financial health.

Jio’s unique selling point — data

Reliance was planning to enter the telecom industry for a very long time and it saw it’s an opportunity with 4G. While other telcos were busy billing users for calls and SMS, Jio wanted to sell just one thing — more data. And, it came up with its own suite of services that ensured the user consumes more and more data.

India’s data consumption is expected to exceed 11GB by 2022. Although, the tariff has barely increased by 20-25 percent in the last few years. Some estimates are even more optimistic and indicate a 40 percent annual rise.

There’s no doubt that streaming services have changed the whole scenario. But, this is where Jio has an unbeatable offering. Since day one, the company has a suite of apps like Jio News, JioTV, JioCinema, JioSaavn, and even JioMeet. Today, there are 29 apps on the Google Play Store. This ecosystem ensures the user doesn’t have to look elsewhere. And, they are yet to be fully monetized. As a Jio subscriber, they’re pretty much free-to-use at the moment.

Data is the new oil

The suite of apps is mostly made for the end consumer. But, the company has grand plans for the future as well. It has already announced a partnership with WhatsApp to launch JioMart. It’ll onboard physical stores and function as a hyperlocal online shopping experience. A segment that hasn’t really taken-off yet despite investments from Amazon, BigBasket, and Grofers.

Coming to the enterprise side, Jio has acquired a plethora of startups and established companies for their know-how. This includes American telecom-technology company Radisys, Asteria Aerospace, Embibe, Haptik, and Netradyne. The company is poised to lead the 5G race due to its healthy financials and technology innovation. The company has announced it’ll carry out 5G trials based on its own technology and won’t be relying on third-party partners like Huawei.

The company is all set for the 5G future and has equivalent investments in IoT, blockchain, and digital payments. Jio may have started out as a telco, but it’s truly turning out to be a technology company.

The most lucrative technology company

All these factors make Jio a very attractive investment. Facebook tried to enter India with Freebasics and Internet.org but failed miserably. A piece of Jio gives it a chance to explore deeper than ever. For investment companies, the pandemic is a reality check. And, Jio just turned out to be a silver lining. With more and more people working from home, wireless data consumption is bound to rise.

Even companies are realizing work-from-home is a better model in many parts of the business since you can skip expensive property investments. Even if the work-from-home model fizzles out in the coming years, personal consumption will remain largely unaffected. And with India’s developing economy, smartphone penetration is expected to steadily increase. This shall also bring in more data consumption, online shopping, and other related tasks. With Jio covering all the bases, it is perfectly positioned to lead the Indian market.

Lastly, it’s essential to understand why Reliance decided to sell slightly more than 30 percent in Jio. The parent company has a debt to pay-off and its Chairman, Mukesh Ambani, had announced it’ll go debt-free by the end of FY2020. Its most valued business of refining oil has taken a hit due to the pandemic-led crude crash.

It won’t be wise to sell an undervalued asset. At the same time, Jio reached its peak. By giving away a minority stake to a range of partners, Reliance not only raised money but also established global trust and recognition of Jio Platforms.

For the global markets, the indication is clear. India is open for business and there’s huge potential.

Automotive

Michael Josh’s One-on-One interview with John Deere’s CEO

The Tech World’s Most Unassuming CEO

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If you’ve been fond of the GadgetMatch YouTube channel, you would know that Michael Josh has already featured John Deere not just once or twice, but more than that.

But unlike the past videos, MJ traveled to Moline, Illinois for a rare sit-down interview with John Deere’s CEO, John C. May.

In his first major chat assuming the role in 2018, he opens up about he’s ushering in John Deere’s technological revolution, and how he believes as a tech company, John Deere can help solve the world’s food problem.

In this video, let’s meet the Tech World’s Most Unassuming CEO together with Michael Josh!

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Enterprise

Nokia seeks to kill OPPO’s sales in some countries

Suing the brand for copyright infringement

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OPPO remains one of the most ubiquitous smartphone brands today. Especially in Asia, the Chinese smartphone brand has appealed to users of all segments. However, a new controversy is seeking to cut off the brand’s sales from where it is popular. Nokia is suing OPPO, potentially leading to the brand disappearing in some countries.

According to sources, Nokia is seeking penalties for the smartphone brand for allegedly breaching copyrights on registered technology. The technology in question includes those that cover 4G and 5G connectivity. The two have  previously agreed to a deal in 2018, but the agreement expired in 2021.

Initially, Nokia chased after OPPO in Germany for the same infringements back in July. The former won the case. As a result, Germany ordered OPPO to stop selling devices in the country. Now, Nokia is suing the brand in other countries in Europe and Asia. Should the company win in the same fashion as in Germany, OPPO might potentially lose its market in the said countries.

To be clear, Nokia itself is suing the brand, rather than HMD Global, the company normally affiliated with Nokia’s current slate of smartphones. The smartphone company is mostly in charge of bringing the brand’s smartphones to the world.

SEE ALSO: Nokia and ZEISS have broken up

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Enterprise

Maya cited among 250 promising global fintech firms

The fastest-growing digital bank joins the 2022 CB Insights’ Fintech 250 list

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Maya PayMaya

Maya (formerly PayMaya) has just been cited as one of the top 250 promising global fintech firms, according to CB Insights.

The company was named alongside an elite international roster in CB Insight’s fifth-annual Fintech 250 ranking: digital banks Revolut and N26; PayPal-backed payment processor Stripe, merchant platform Pine Labs, and crypto platform Binance.

Maya, through its parent company Voyager Innovations, was recognized due to its strong record of execution, taking the crown as the only platform with an all-in-one money app, leading merchant payment processors, extensive MSME on-ground network, and being the fastest-growing digital bank in the Philippines.

“We are proud to be recognized alongside other trailblazers in the global fintech space. Being on this list validates our thrust of providing an integrated experience to our customers through our comprehensive digital financial ecosystem. It is also a testament to the world-class organization that we’ve built,” said Shailesh Baidwan, Maya Group President and Maya Bank Co-Founder.

One of the 250

Over 12,500 private companies that include applicants and nominees, CB Insights selected Maya as one of the 250 winners. The criteria for winning were chosen based on factors such as R&D activity, proprietary Mosaic scores, market potential, business relationships, investor profile, news sentiment analysis, competitive landscape, team strength, and tech novelty.

“This year’s Fintech 250 winners are shaping the future of financial services, from payments and banking to investing and insurance,” said Brian Lee, SVP of CB Insights’ Intelligence Unit.

“Representing more than 30 countries, these companies are creating safer and more efficient payment methods and transforming how traditional banking, insurance, and investing products are delivered.”

A successful rebrand

After its successful rebranding, the company has expanded beyond payments, introducing game-changing digital banking innovations across its unique ecosystem of 51 million consumers and network of 1.2 million MSMEs.

In just three months after its launch, Maya Bank became the fastest-growing digital bank in the Philippines, smashing records by recording over PHP5 billion in deposit balance and over 650,000 bank customers in just three months after its launch.

Furthermore, Maya Bank is the only digital bank to offer loan products within a quarter from its launch. It was able to scale fast because it leveraged the ready pool of rich transactional data from its payments business.

Moreover, Maya became the second tech unicorn in the Philippines in March 2022. The company was backed by global investors including KKR, Tencent, International Finance Corporation, IFC Emerging Asia Fund, IFC Financial Institutions Growth Fund, SIG Venture Capital, EDBI, First Pacific Company, and PLDT. END

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