Google will invest $700 million in Indian telecom operator Airtel, the latest in a series of bets the company has made in the world’s second largest internet market as part of a $10 billion fund.

Google said it will invest $700 million to acquire a 1.28% stake in Airtel, which has amassed over 300 million subscribers in India, and pour in up to $300 million more “toward potential multi-year commercial agreements.”

The two firms said they will work together to build on Airtel’s extensive offerings that covers a range of Android-enabled devices to consumers via “innovative affordability programs.” The companies also said they will explore partnerships with device makers to “bring down the barriers of owning a smartphone across a range of price points.”

“Airtel is a leading pioneer shaping India’s digital future, and we are proud to partner on a shared vision for expanding connectivity and ensuring equitable access to the Internet for more Indians,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, in a statement.

“Our commercial and equity investment in Airtel is a continuation of our Google for India Digitization Fund’s efforts to increase access to smartphones, enhance connectivity to support new business models, and help companies on their digital transformation journey.”

Friday’s announcement comes at a time when both Airtel and Vodafone have been scrambling for ways to repay their debts to New Delhi. Vodafone gave away over 35% to New Delhi earlier this month, making the Indian government its largest shareholder.

Vodafone and Airtel compete with Jio Platforms, run by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. Incidentally, Google invested $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms in 2020.

This is a developing story. More to follow…


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