Unless you're fairly acquainted with Indian business magnates, you may not know the name "Mukesh Ambani." But Ambani, whose net worth exceeds that of Elon Musk, is a massive and controversial powerhouse in Asia. And now, according to BuzzFeed News, he seems to have access to at least half of Google's $10 billion investment in India's business and digitization efforts.
The report comes just days after Google announced that it would run a "Google for India" campaign designed to increase digitization across the board and assist small to medium-sized businesses to boost the country's economy. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that the Indian market had an undoubtable effect on the global marketplace and through this massive monetary investment, Google would help the country through a "mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments."
Here's the background — Part of the deal of Google's investment plan for India involved handing a chunk of its package to a prominent telecommunications operator known as Jio Platforms. This $4.5 billion investment would be to "increase access for the hundreds of millions in India who don't own a smartphone," according to Pichai on Twitter. What the Google CEO did not mention was that Jio Platforms is owned by Ambani and that lack of transparency could jeopardize public trust in the venture.
For its own part, the company wrote that its partnership with Jio Platforms would help millions and millions of Indians connect with each other more smoothly and reliably. For small to medium businesses in the more rural parts of the country, this kind of connectivity could even stoke business growth. "Together we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners of smartphones," the company stated in this blog post. "This effort will unlock new opportunities, further power the vibrant ecosystem of applications, and push innovation to drive growth for the new Indian economy."
Pichai has explaining to do — All platitudes about robust economies aside, Google has some explaining to do as far as its link with Ambani goes. A cursory glance at the business tycoon's history shows that he is a constant subject of fierce criticism for possible corruption, keeping loyalists near him, and profiting off regulatory concessions that boost his telecom empire over others.
All that passionate harping on about access and equity could fall flat if Pichai doesn't elaborate on why exactly almost half of this huge investment is going to a man who does not need more money for his sprawling kingdom.