Investors continue to make a beeline for Jio Platforms. On Sunday, US-based growth equity firm General Atlantic Partners picked up a 1.34 percent stake in Jio Platforms for Rs 6,598.38 crore, making it the fourth such investment in less than four weeks. Since April 22, Jio Platforms has raised a total of Rs 67,194.75 crore from Facebook, Silver Lake Partners, Vista Equity partners and General Atlantic Partners for a total of 14.8 percent equity. It is not only a glowing endorsement of the management’s vision and execution capabilities but also shows the dearth of similar investment opportunities globally.
General Atlantic, which has so far invested about $3 billion in India, has cut checks to a few Indian startups including NoBroker, Unacademy and Byju’s. Its investment in Jio is so far the largest in Asia. These investments will help Jio accelerate towards its vision of building a Digital Society in India.
This grand vision of a digital society is what makes Jio Platforms so attractive to investors. It has more than adequately demonstrated its capabilities in the three and half years since launch. When it had started in 2016, mobile telephony was primarily used for voice, especially in non-metro areas, and the use of data was limited to metros and top towns, despite the fact that mobile technology came to India in mid-90s. Jio brought cheap mobile internet to hundreds of millions of Indians, living across small cities and rural areas, at the cheapest possible cost and made voice free. About a third of India’s population now use Jio for communications, and entertainment.
But that’s not all. Jio has left behind its origins as a telecom player to become a next generation software and platform company. It completely transformed the way millions of Indians communicate and access entertainment. To add to that, it is now aiming to transform India’s retail industry by enabling millions of kirana stores with digital commerce.
A few days after Facebook’s investment in Jio, the company launched JioMart, the phygital commerce platform that brings kirana stores to take orders and payments digitally, on WhatsApp in parts of Mumbai as a pilot project.
Thus, Jio has not only created vast reach, but also created a unique digital ecosystem that spans communication, entertainment, commerce and payments in one platform. Other value added services such as education and healthcare are just a step away.
And, that’ll benefit majority of India’s 1.3 billion people, especially across rural and semi-urban locations. That’s the opportunity that everyone has been talking for decades, but very few, like packaged goods companies, managed to crack a bit. Jio, backed by RIL’s management and 40 years of knowing the nooks and corners of India, can tap the real Bharat opportunity by bringing cutting-edge technologies and tools such as AI, Blockchain, AR/VR, and big data into play for all Indians.
RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani had said on September 1, 2016 when he formally launched Jio at the annual general meeting of RIL that the company’s decision to invest in in telecommunication and technology was because of the “opportunity to transform India”. The need for that transformation is more visible with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that has forced the whole world to rethink business strategies to ensure survival. Jio with its unique platform is best placed to take advantage of the rapid digitisation opportunity post COVID-19.
Thus, the investments from Facebook, Silver Lake Partners, Vista Equity Partners and General Atlantic Partners not only show faith in the company’s vision of Digital India, but also that the investors have found their bet to leverage the opportunity. Disclaimer: Reliance Industries Ltd., which also owns Jio, is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.