Facebook- Jio Deal: The fourth of May bought us news different from those caused by the grim pandemic. In one of the first virtual deals, Mukesh Ambani and Mark Zuckerberg took to their Social Media to announce the agreement. According to the deal, Facebook would invest $5.7 billion in exchange for a 9.9% stake of Jio. This deal would be the largest investment for a minority stake by a tech company in India.
Soon after the deal was announced words bordering data privacy concerns and national security were thrown around. Today we go through what the characteristics of the deal are and its impact on the Indian markets.
How big are these numbers?
Facebook investing 5.7 billion (Rs.43574 crore) for 9.9% would mean that they have valued Jio as a $57 billion company. If we take a look at FDI Equity inflow from 2019, the US totaled at only $2.7 billion. Facebook has been sitting on a huge cash pile of $52 billion and the investment hardly covers 11% of its reserves.
If we change perspective, Reliance Industries has invested 1.8 lakh crore into Jio. This would peg 10% at 18000 crores. Although Jio has been a force to reckon with, remapping the telecom industry. Questions do arise over what the additional amount means? and what Facebook saw in Jio considering it valuable to invest in?
Industries likely to face immediate impact
Facebook has struggled with its plans to turn Whatsapp into a payment app offering similar services like Paytm. Jio, on the other hand, is facing challenges entering the online consumer segment. This deal with the right exchange of data could help each with their respective goals.
Facebook-owned Whatsapp is being planned to be updated as an ordering and payment app. Facebook would also be able to use Jio’s reach to local Kiranas to promote the model. This would enable us to order products from local stores through WhatsApp and also make payments through it.
Although Jio is valued mainly as a telecom service provider, just by going through the immediate plans the effects of this deal will span across 3 Industries. The telecom, online retail, and online payments industry.
— Online Retail Industry
Of the Rs.43574 crores, 15000 crores will remain with Jio. This will be invested in its online grocery store, Jio Mart. Data collected by WhatsApp would enable Jio Mart to understand the demographics better for operations. This, however, would be a cause for concern to existing heavyweights like Amazon and Flipkart.
Online Grocery Shopping has been one of the few sectors in India that have gained demand during the pandemic. Before the outbreak, only 1% of the 80,000 crores grocery market in India was represented online. After the lockdown was imposed the online grocery shopping represents 50% of the grocery demand in the country.
— Online payments industry
Whatsapp entering the online payment service would pose a serious challenge to existing players. The need for additional apps would be challenged when a single app would allow you to text, order, and pay. Whatsapp already running deep through Indian veins, at times even being upgraded as the prime source of news would only be upgraded to the status of a super app if its goals are realized.
— Telecom Industry
With companies struggling with liquidity during the pandemic, a better time would not come for Jio to receive investment. The 5G debate is soon to be settled. The government would waste no time for spectrum sales to raise the revenue it is in desperate need of. The spectrum sale is aimed at 50,000 crores. This would make Jio the front runner. Closely followed by airtel looking for investments and Vodaphone-Idea as the smallest player trying to weather the tough times.
Facebook- Jio Deal: What’s in it for Facebook?
Although there has been no clear indication over the aims of the two companies. Facebook in recent times has faced stiff competition from Apps from China like WeChat and TikTok. Due to China being a market closed to foreign investments, the world views India as the next close contender. The coming together of the two giants will have more than what meets the eye.
1. Data – The New Money
To understand the role data plays we would first have to understand Facebook better. Have you ever searched for fashionable cloth wear that you always wanted? All this only to find yourself followed by advertisements related to the product on social media? Or perhaps an advert caught your eye and you decided to know more by clicking on it.
Did you spend the following week being bombarded by advertisements for similar products? Have these come to be by chance or does the universe really want to see you in a suede jacket to align with its plans for you along with the stars? Unfortunately not!
— The Facebook Business Model
Facebook earned a revenue of $70.7 billion in 2018. This amount seems too huge for a social media platform that offers its services for free. However, social media has been only a front for the data mogul.
The very business model of Facebook lies in gathering information from its users and sharing it with advertising companies or other MNCs. The data-based on user preferences is shared with advertisement companies that are willing to pay for it. The user is then made the recommendation accordingly. Last year alone Facebook made 84$ per user in the North American region.
Unfortunately, it can also be said that the very business model by Facebook hurls away client privacy and data protection. The media giant has already been involved in public spats with the Indian government. This was over the Indian government’s data privacy concerns. It led the government to pressurize Facebook to localize Indian data storage.
The deal has already raised these privacy concerns as Jio has over 388 million clients. Jio, however, may view this as an advantage. This is because India has been Whatsapps biggest client. Whatsapp has 400 million users in India alone ( larger than Jio’s customer base). The exchange of data between the two may provide them with the opportunity to understand the preferences and needs better. There still may exist a quid pro quo as Facebook would benefit from Jio’s deep reach in the Indian markets.
— The disruption caused by Jio to Global Data plans
Data is primarily the reason why companies like Google offer free Wifi in railway stations. Facebook too had plans under the name Express Wifi. Here solar-powered drones would provide free internet beamed through the air. These models were quashed after the entry of Jio entered the market in 2016. Jio’s free internet made innovative investments from global giants a waste.
The Indian market is said to double its smartphone users to 859 million by 2022. If Facebook is even to gain 100 million clients, it would result in additional revenue every year. These numbers put Facebook’s data and investment in Jio in the right perspective.
Most of Facebook’s plans have been always roughed up by the Indian Laws. Even its Free Basics program aimed at providing affordable internet service to less developed countries was banned in India. TRAI rolled out the judgment as it was said to infringe on the principles of net neutrality.
Jio’s lobbying ability would be just as important to Facebook as Jio’s market penetration. Whatsapps online payment service is also still under review from the government. If Whatsapp plans to successfully roll out the payment service app, it’s deal with Jio will play an important role. Reliance Jio has already proved time and again its lobbying prowess in Delhi. Otherwise, how would the PM be used in a private company’s advertisements. And the companies still be get away with a hefty fine of Rs.500?
3. A platform for other products
Investing in Jio could also see an opportunity for similar products existing in both companies. They span from retail and gaming to education.
Facebook also has plans to launch its own digital currency again in 2020. This makes India a market to be explored as the Supreme Court verdict in March legalized Cryptocurrency. This, however, will be under scrutiny from the RBI. This is due to the concerns over the effects it may have on the Rupee.
Facebook- Jio Deal: What’s in it for Jio?
Jio has proven its ability to compete across sectors. A deal of this magnitude will extend Jio’s reach and further enhance its ability to compete. We have already discussed how Facebook will be benefitted from Jio’s market base. Jio in exchange will be provided with the opportunity to further expand. This is because the number of users with WhatsApp still exceeds Jio’s customer base.
Mukesh Ambani in his 2019 Annual General Meeting of Reliance Industries announced that Reliance would be debt-free by 2021. This seemed like a longshot as the outstanding debt as of September 2019 stood at 2.92 lakh crore. Instead of an IPO, Jio has decided to sell off ownership and enter into a strategic partnership with investors.
This would not only reduce debt but also provide invested partners with benefits in exchange. The first attempt at this stood with the $15 billion deal with Saudi Aramco. Unfortunately due to the Crude oil crisis, the deal fell apart. Apart from the 15000 crores aimed at Jio Mart, the remaining amount would be utilized for debt reduction. Reliance has also signed an agreement of 7000 crores with British Petroleum for 49% share in its fuel retail. Forming clever alliances would ensure Jio’s survival in the long term.
Mukesh Ambani has made it clear to not trod the same road his brother did. Too much debt was a major factor that eventually led to RCom filing for bankruptcy in 2019. The Facebook deal would result in Jio having a better Balance Sheet.
— With regards to the Investment deal
According to former Airtel CEO Sanjay Kumar, the deal between Jio and Facebook can only be seen positively as it comes in a time where companies are cash strapped. Any Foreign investment in this period can only be seen in a positive light.
It has to be noted how Facebook has cleverly avoided being prey to oil price impact. They did this by directly investing in Jio instead of Reliance Industries, Jio’s parent company.
The deal, however, leaves a number of players affected in different industries. They will have to draw up new roadmaps. As now they will battle the pandemic and at the same time deal with the added competitive prowess of Jio. It would be unfair for Jio to be criticized on the ground of it being bought by a US MNC. Companies like Flipkart and Paytm are currently just tools for Walmart and Alibaba to be used in the Indian markets. The other companies in the telecom industry too have been financed from foreign investment.
— With regards to Data
When it comes to data privacy Mukesh Ambani’s stand provides some assurance. He has stated that data is a national resource. The value created by data generated should and be deployed by Indians. He also added that data generated in India shall remain localized within India’s geographical boundaries.
— With regards to the Future
India should take note of the Jio deal and encourage other industries to do so too. This is because global industrialists and investors will be looking for new markets to invest in. This can be expected as they would preferably avoid China due to the uncertainty in the future. Attracting investments would create jobs that were lost due to the pandemic. They would also provide the necessary boost required by the economy.
India must ensure that they are ready to contend for investments once the lockdowns are lifted. This would definitely save the plummeting economy.