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No conflict of interest in Google deal: Airtel CEO

Bharti Airtel earlier this week announced a partnership with Google, which entails the latter investing a sum of one billion dollars in the telecom giant. A day after the announcement, Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal has clarified that there is no conflict of interest in the Google deal.

“As far as the question on conflict of interest of Google goes, we partner with several companies just as Google partners across several companies,” the Airtel CEO told the analysts.

“…we will continue to work across multiple players in all areas, whether working across devices, ecommerce players, device manufacturers. Similarly, on the cloud, we work across several hyper scalers, we are building data centres for all of the hyper scalars,” he added.

Furthermore, the Airtel CEO clarified that Airtel’s pact with Google also involved making handsets more affordable and that deals with device makers had no exclusivity element to it.

It is worth noting that the Airtel CEO’s comments came in light of the fact that Google had also invested $4.5 billion in rival Reliance Jio back in 2020. As a part of the agreement, Google had acquired a 7.73% stake in the company. The two companies had also collaborated on a host of other things including jointly developing smartphones – JioPhone Next – and an optimised version of Android OS for JioPhones.

Additionally, Vittal clarified that Airtel was not planning to make handsets, unlike Jio. Instead, it planned to make handsets via ‘affordable through lending programmes targeting feature phone customers’. “We have no plans to build our own device, but instead intend to partner across the ecosystem…to further accelerate the adoption of smart phones from feature phones,” Vittal told analysts.

Notably, as a part of the deal, Google will acquire a 1.28% stake in the Indian telecom giant for a sum of $700 million. The remaining $300 million will focus on multi-year agreements over the course of the coming five years. The two companies will also collaborate over creating India-specific use-case of 5G technology. BGR

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