May 29, 2020
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Good morning! This Friday, what Facebook and Google want from India, a whole bunch of troubles at WeWork, and SoftBank's back to its old ways. Want Index in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.
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If the 2010s were about Chinese tech, the 2020s look set to be about India. A huge battle is unfolding in the world's second most populous country, with local companies and foreign giants alike duking it out for control of its rapidly digitizing economy.
The best example of that is Jio Platforms, which has received around $10 billion of investment in the last five weeks, with another $5.5 billion reportedly on its way. Today on Protocol, I have a long piece explaining what exactly investors are betting on.
The network now has almost 400 million subscribers, and it's started to offer them a range of digital services like mobile wallets, remote education and online healthcare.
For Facebook, this is almost existentially important. With China off the table, India presents Facebook's last big growth opportunity. Being able to sell ecommerce ads, as well as make money from WhatsApp Pay, is Facebook's big chance at being able to monetize that opportunity.
But it's not going to be easy. Keep reading to find out why.
Something I wondered before writing this piece is why Facebook needs Jio — why doesn't it just take over India by itself?
India's a very complicated market, and it seems Facebook's learned that it's easiest to crack with a local partner. That'll likely prove true, especially with one as dominant as RIL.
If Google does get involved, Jio will find it even tougher to execute its already ambitious plans to build a giant ecosystem — one which Bharti and Vodafone also want to build.
Investors are clearly happy to offer up the capital. So now it's just a matter of time…
In some ways, today feels like a welcome return to the Before Days. SoftBank is involved in a weird WeWork dispute; it's investing a ton of money in a futuristic self-driving car company; and it doubled its top Vision Fund exec's salary to $15 million last year. (As a reminder, the Vision Fund lost $13 billion last year.) It's all very classic SoftBank, and I'm glad we've quickly moved on from that whole "profitability is important" spiel. With everything else haywire, some things have to remain constant.