Google to launch cheap smartphone in India with Jio, first from $10 billion fund


Reliance Jio Platforms and Google Wednesday announced they would launch an entry-level Android smartphone soon in India.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in a statement, said: “I am excited that our joint collaboration will focus on increasing access for hundreds of millions of Indians who don’t currently own a smartphone while improving the mobile experience for all.”

“Together, we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners of smartphones,” he added.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, was quoted as saying: “Google has empowered millions of Indians to access helpful information and, like Jio, is a force for change and innovation. Together, we hope to play a strong facilitative role in the transformative journey of building a new, Digital India.”

In a mega investment announcement, Google announced to invest Rs 33,737 crore ($4.5 billion) in Jio Platforms for an equity stake of 7.73 percent.

This is the first investment from the $10 billion ‘Google For India Digitization Fund announced earlier this week, which aims to accelerate India’s digital economy over the next five to seven years through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments.

According to Google, the majority of people in India still don’t have access to the Internet, and fewer still own a smartphone.

Tarun Pathak, associate director, Counterpoint Research, told IANS that Jio has the potential to undercut its rivals in pricing as has been seen before.

“Google’s partnership will give it more flexibility to offer stable hardware and software experience. Individually, both Jio with initial 4G smartphone launches and Google with Android One program did their best in the past to capture entry-level smartphone user base but didn’t succeed,” Pathak explained.

This partnership aims to target the entry-level smartphone segment (less than Rs 10,000) which sells anywhere close to 60 million smartphones annually in India.

“However, we see this happening once 5G networks are live,” said Pathak.

Google said it wants to work with Jio and other leaders in the local ecosystem to ensure that smartphones together with the apps and services in the Play Store – are within reach for many more Indians across the country.

“We believe the pace of Indian innovation means that the experiences we create for India can ultimately be expanded to the rest of the world,” said Sanjay Gupta, country head and VP, Google India.

Google opened its first Indian campuses in Bengaluru and Hyderabad in 2004.

“Since then, we’ve made India central to our Next Billion Users initiative-designed to ensure the internet is useful for people coming online for the first time,” said Sameer Samat, VP, product management at Google. “We’ve improved our apps and services so they’re relevant in more Indian languages and created offline versions for those facing network constraints.”