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India Journalism

Inside Facebook and Private Equity’s $8.8 Billion Bet on India’s Richest Man

Facebook Jio

That’s the headline on my newest story, out yesterday. It begins:

Facebook Inc. and a trio of U.S. private-equity firms have in the past month poured billions of dollars into an upstart mobile operator controlled by India’s richest man.

The stakes, which add up to $8.8 billion, amount to a bet that Jio Platforms Ltd. and Mukesh Ambani, the chairman and largest shareholder of its parent company, Reliance Industries Ltd., are the players best positioned to bring legions of Indian consumers fully online and into e-commerce.

Facebook’s April announcement that it would invest $5.7 billion for a stake in Mumbai-based Jio was quickly followed by $750 million from Silver Lake and $1.5 billion from Vista Equity Partners. On Sunday, Jio said it was raising $870 million from another private-equity powerhouse, General Atlantic.

I also discussed the piece on an episode of our Tech News Briefing podcast. Click here to listen, or search for the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

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India Journalism Tech

Facebook Takes $5.7 Billion Stake in India’s Jio Platforms

That’s the headline on my most recent story, out Wednesday with my colleague Jeff Horwitz. It begins:

Facebook Inc. said it would pay $5.7 billion for just under 10% of Indian telecom operator Jio Platforms Ltd., a massive expansion of the social media giant’s commitment to a promising market where it has faced difficulties.

The deal, unveiled late Tuesday, is Facebook’s largest overseas investment and gives it the opportunity to bring its WhatsApp messaging service—which has more than 400 million users in India—into closer partnership with the mobile operator that upended India’s telecommunications industry with cut-rate data plans.

Jio Platforms Ltd. and its subsidiary, mobile operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., are part of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. Jio Infocomm provides services to about 388 million customers.

The deal shows how Facebook, like other tech giants, is pushing ahead and taking advantage of its relative strength during a pandemic that is causing most other industries to retreat.

In a subsequent story, I looked a little closer at the who gets what out of the deal. The lede:

Facebook Inc.’s $5.7 billion tie-up with an Indian mobile leader could create a new kind of animal in the world’s biggest untapped digital market: a social media behemoth wedded to a mobile infrastructure titan—both coveting e-commerce.

Now the two companies are expected to square off against some formidable online shopping rivals: Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc., which have each invested billions in the South Asian market.

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India Journalism Tech

Amazon’s Bezos Pledges New $1 Billion India Investment Amid Pushback

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Krishna Pokharel, out Wednesday. It begins:

NEW DELHI— Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos pledged to invest an additional $1 billion in the company’s Indian operations, part of a charm offensive in a promising but challenging market.

Mr. Bezos told a gathering of local Amazon sellers that the intent is to help more small businesses start selling on the company’s marketplace. The new funds will supplement the $5 billion that Amazon has said it is spending to build out its Indian business, a spokeswoman said.

Click through to read the rest.

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India Journalism Tech

India Orders WhatsApp, Google to Save Data on Mob Attack

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Krishna Pokharel, out Tuesday. It begins:

NEW DELHI — An Indian court ordered Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to preserve data connected to an attack on a university campus earlier this month in the latest attempt by authorities in the country to wrangle more control over the messaging and search giants.

According to an attorney involved in the case, the Delhi High Court said Tuesday that the companies, local police and university authorities must try to save messages, photos and videos connected to the Jan. 5 attack, when several dozen people stormed the campus of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, injuring 32 students and two faculty members.

Click through to read the rest.

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India Journalism Tech

India Orders Antitrust Probe of Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Monday. It begins:

NEW DELHI–India’s antitrust watchdog ordered a probe into whether Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart have violated competition laws, New Delhi’s latest move to try to rein in American tech giants that dominate its burgeoning internet economy.

The investigation launched by the Competition Commission of India Monday said it would focus on allegations that the U.S. titans promote “preferred sellers” of goods on their platforms, which may have hurt smaller rivals.

“It has been alleged that most of these preferred sellers are affiliated with or controlled by Flipkart or Amazon, either directly or indirectly,” the order said.

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India Journalism Tech

Me on ‘The Journal’ Podcast Talking U.S. Tech Giants and India

Quick heads up: I was on the latest edition of The WSJ‘s “The Journal” podcast talking about my recent story on U.S. tech giants facing pushback here in India.

I was happy to join in as I’ve long admired the show, and this was my first appearance.

You can listen online here or in your favorite podcast app. Just search for “The Journal.” The episode was out yesterday, December 10, and is called “India Rewrites the Rules for Big Tech.”

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India Journalism Tech

Silicon Valley-Backed App Lenders Use Phone Data to Hassle Borrowers

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That’s the headline on my most recent story, with my colleague Justin Scheck.

It was on the front page of Friday’s WSJ.

It begins:

NEW DELHI–Silicon Valley venture capital is funding a wave of fintech startups in India that use data from borrowers’ cellphones to collect on debts in ways that are illegal in both India and the U.S.

The startups are providing much-needed credit in India, where consumer lending has been limited by a lack of credit scores and by banks that are reluctant to make personal loans. While the newcomers’ tactics are illegal, they are ignored by Indian regulators who want to encourage lending, according to analysts and company insiders. The startups also use personal data to make lending decisions.

It is the latest example of Silicon Valley pushing legal and ethical boundaries in a global race for customers and profit. Lured by the promise of massive populations of people who are just beginning to transact online, tech companies are moving into banking in emerging markets, where cultural norms are complex, regulations are often weak, and many consumers lack credit histories or even official identification.

2019 12 03Silicon Valley Backed Fintech Apps Use Phone Data to Harass Borrowers

I also discussed the story on our What’s News podcast. You can listen on Spotify here or search your favorite podcast app for WSJ What’s News.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

India’s Paytm Secures $1 Billion Investment From SoftBank, Ant Financial

2019 11 26paytm

That’s the headline on my newest story, out yesterday. It begins:

NEW DELHI—The parent company of popular Indian mobile-payments startup Paytm said it has secured $1 billion in fresh funds from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. and China’s Ant Financial Services Group, giving it more firepower in a fast-growing but crowded market.

The investment values the parent company, One97 Communications Ltd., at $16 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, making it one of Asia’s most valuable startups.

The Noida, India-based company makes a smartphone app that allows users to pay for goods and services such as groceries, auto rickshaw rides, movie tickets and electricity bills. It also has an e-commerce platform and offers financial products such as mutual funds and savings accounts.

The investment is a “reaffirmation of our commitment” to provide “new age financial services,” founder and Chief Executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma said in a statement Monday in India.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Life

Two Years with Our Adopted New Delhi Street Dog, Ginger

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Last week – November 4 – marked two years since we adopted Ginger.

She continues to be a delight. She is clever, loyal, playful, energetic, silly, and sometimes slightly devious. And she definitely loves her long walks.

The photo at the top is from a Lodhi Garden trip. She loves that place. Here’s another pic of her there:

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And here she is at rest in the sun at home:

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One of her most endearing traits is her love of pouncing. Here’s a video of her hopping on me when I called her recently! 🙂

Dogs: What would life be without them?

Previously:

  • One Year with our Adopted New Delhi Street Dog, Ginger
  • Introducing our Desi Dog, Ginger

  • Categories
    India

    An Excellent, Dog Friendly New Delhi Outing: Sunder Nursery

    sunder nursery dog friendly

    New Delhi can be very dog-unfriendly.

    It’s hard to walk canines here, and most restaurants and cafes don’t allow furry companions.

    So we were excited today to discover that Sunder Nursery, a recently opened park that friends have raved about, lets you bring in pooches – provided you clean up after them, and keep them leashed, and off the grass (humans must also stick to most pathways).

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    Located near Humayun’s Tomb in central Delhi, it opened earlier this year after being renovated. It houses a 16th century tomb, various gardens and lawns, and is meticulously maintained. You can find it on Google Maps here.

    An added bonus: There’s a farmers’ market every Sunday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. You can buy coffee and juices, snacks, produce and more. There are tables to sit down and eat, as well.

    The complex is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. There’s a small admission charge for entry.

    You can find more info on the Sunder Nursery Wikipedia page, and on TripAdvisor. Scroll down for pics — and a photo of the rules posted outside the entrance stipulating that canines are allowed in.

    Highly recommended by us – and Ginger.

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    Sunder Nursery

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    Just inside the entrance

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    The place is surprisingly un-crowded

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    Acres of green

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    The farmers market

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    The farmers market

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    Produce

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    Stare-down with some local dogs

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    See point number nine.