Google has announced plans to invest up to $1 billion in Bharti Airtel as part of its Google for India Digitisation Fund, according to a press release by Airtel. The equity investment which will see Google pick up a 1.28 per cent stake will be carried out at $700 million at a share price of Rs. 734, the release added. The corpus of $300 million will be kept aside for commercial agreements which will be “identified and agreed on mutually agreeable terms over the course of the next five years”, the company said. It is not clear how the deal will materialise or how Airtel plans to leverage Google's expertise. Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal had revealed in an earnings call last year that the company was in talks with OEM manufacturers, Google, as well as software developers to see how it can compete on handsets without taking inventory positions and manufacturing its own devices. The deal will let Airtel come up with smartphones bundled with new services and customised software, which may entice users to migrate from feature phones to smartphones, according to the Economic Times, but Airtel will have to rely on its hardware partners to enable overall device affordability, which is going to be challenging at a time of global supply chain disruptions, the report added. It is unclear where exactly Google will come in but its partnerships with OEM manufacturers will be key to Airtel. The investment may be seen as Google’s attempt to double down on its…
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