China’s Pain Could Be Google’s, Facebook’s Gain in India

With China’s internet giants locked out of the world’s second-most-populous country, U.S. tech sees an opportunity.

By guest author Jacky Wong from Wall Street Journal

Chinese firms, used to being atop the internet food chain in Asia, have fallen from their perch in India because of Beijing’s diplomatic stumbles—and U.S. firms are looking to climb on.

Google said Monday, July 13, 2020,  that it will set up a USD 10 billion fund to invest in India over the next five to seven years, including investments in other companies, to speed up adoption of digital services. The news comes after India banned 59 Chinese mobile apps recently, following a clash along the two countries’ border that killed 20 Indian soldiers.

The banned apps include some that are very popular in the country, such as short-video app TikTok and social-media app Helo, both owned by China’s Bytedance. Of the top 25 most downloaded apps in India last quarter, eight were from Chinese publishers, according to data firm Sensor Towers.

That opens up opportunities for American companies, but it also makes sense for them to bet on some local Indian startups. Downloads for the Indian substitutes to TikTok and Helo, such as Roposo and ShareChat, have jumped in the past two weeks.

Rising U.S. corporate interest in the world’s second-most-populous country predates its recent flare-up with China. Jio Platforms, which owns India’s largest wireless carrier, has raised more than $10 billion in the past few months. That includes USD 5.7 billion from Facebook as well as from other American investors including Intel and Qualcomm. Jio, controlled by the country’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, plans to bring many of India’s mom-and-pop stores onto its e-commerce platform, now perhaps with the help of Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger.