Facebook inked its largest deal since agreeing to acquire WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, revealing that it will invest $5.7 billion in Indian telecommunications operator Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries.
India is the most important market for Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp, with research firm eMarketer pegging its user total in the country at 340 million last September.
Teaming up with Jio may help Facebook make further inroads in India, as its efforts to roll out a payments service for WhatsApp have been hampered by regulatory concerns over privacy, potentially meeting the same fate as its Free Basics attempt to provide internet access.
Facebook chief revenue officer David Fischer and vice president and managing director for India Ajit Mohan said in a Newsroom post, “This investment underscores our commitment to India and our excitement for the dramatic transformation that Jio has spurred in the country. In less than four years, Jio has brought more than 388 million people online, fueling the creation of innovative new enterprises and connecting people in new ways. We are committed to connecting more people in India together with Jio.”
They revealed plans to target the 60 million-plus small businesses across the country by joining Jio’s JioMart with WhatsApp to connect those businesses with people and enable people to shop and purchase products via mobile.
Fischer and Mohan wrote, “India is a special country for us. Over the years, Facebook has invested in India to connect people and help businesses launch and grow. WhatsApp is so ingrained in Indian life that it has become a commonly used verb across many Indian languages and dialects. Facebook brings together friends and families, but moreover, it’s one of the country’s biggest enablers of growth for small businesses. And Instagram has grown dramatically in India in recent years as the place where people follow their interests and passions.”
Facebook is now the largest minority shareholder in Jio Platforms.