Fb acted as catalyst for file FDI: Ambani

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15

Reliance India Limited Chairman Mukesh Ambani credited the record foreign direct investment in India during the pandemic period to Facebook’s announcement in April to invest $ 5.7 billion (over Rs 43,574 crore) in the Jio platform.

“I have no hesitation in going on record that it is your investment that set the ball rolling. Not only for Jio, but for the Indian FDI which has been the largest-ever in its history,” Ambani told Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, which now also owns Whatsapp.

“Partnership between Jio and Facebook will actually demonstrate that it is great for India, Indians, and small Indian businesses,” he said.

Facebook’s investment is for a 9.99 per cent equity stake in the company.

Foreign inflows into India rose 15 per cent to $ 30 billion during the first half of the current fiscal with $ 17.5 billion of inflow recorded in August alone.

Zuckerberg’s interest in Jio fuelled interest from other companies in the Indian economy leading to the US emerging as the second biggest source of FDI ($7.12 billion), according to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Singapore topped with $ 8.5 billion of inflows followed by Cayman Islands and Mauritius with about $ 2 billion each. The UK, the Netherlands and France have invested around $ 1 billion each. Japan, Germany and Cyprus account for another $ 1 billion. In the past two decades, India has attracted $ 500 billion in FDI.

Zuckerberg described India as a very special and important country as he talked about the recently launched WhatsApp payments in India.

Last month, WhatsApp was allowed to roll out its payments services in India which it had been testing for two years. It now has a registered user base of 20 million and is pitted against Paytm, Google Pay, PhonePe and Amazon Pay.

Ambani also credited PM Narendra Modi for ensuring a strong digital backbone that had made this possible. “I wonder if the pandemic had struck four or five year earlier, we would not be in as good a shape. Credit must go to the PM for his digital India vision of rolling out a country-wide broadband network in his first five years in office.”

As a result, the system was able to handle and execute on-line transactions during the lockdown period, he said.

The Zuckerberg-Ambani virtual conversation was part of the “Facebook Fuel for India 2020” event. Though billed as a “fireside chat”, the two entrepreneurs stiffly faced the camera as they heard each other deliver their remarks.

Both leaders spoke highly of the huge subscriber base of Facebook and Whatsapp that could be leveraged by Jio’s “hundreds of millions of subscribers”, said Ambani.

“This means Jio brings digital connectivity, WhatsApp Pay brings digital interactivity and Jio Mart brings online and offline retail that gives our small shops in villages and small towns in India a chance to digitise,” said Ambani.

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