This story is part of our China Week Series. See All Articles
It is uncanny how time and again some version of this conversation plays out. In one on one meetings. At conferences. Among a group of startup employees, and founders. Among a group of strangers. At a bar. At a coffee table, people sitting opposite each other. At a work desk, people crowding around one table. Everyone, discussing the technology-led opportunity in India and China, and the similarity or dissimilarity of both markets.
Almost always, it starts with something along the lines of how India is like China. Then someone butts in: but in China, they don’t have Facebook. They don’t have Google. They don’t have Twitter. They have their own thing. They have Baidu. They have Alibaba. They have Weibo. They have Taobao. They have WeChat…
India, however, is dominated by US corporations. Facebook. Google. WhatsApp. Twitter. Amazon. There are a billion and more people in India; it is a huge market, it is unlike any other market in the world. India is also a democracy, unlike China. By this time, the conversation slowly begins to lose steam.
Chinese tech companies are buying and investing in companies across the world. Look at Alibaba’s global expansion, look at Tencent; what do you think is going to happen in India? Alibaba and Tencent are also investing here; Where are we headed?
This is the story that helps you take a considered, well-informed view on the subject. Because China’s billions in India rest in internet technology companies like Paytm, Byju’s, Ola, Hike, Practo and TicketNew, among others. All that money points to China’s increasing appetite for this country.
It’s a fact that the Chinese companies don’t like being talked in the press often, not on record. That hindrance didn’t come as a surprise while putting this story together. For this piece, The Ken has relied on information and reports of analysts, who cover China’s internet for a living, company officials who’ve spoken only on background and industry watchers, like venture capital investors.
But first things first, China is nothing like India. It just isn’t. With that out of the way, let’s move on.
Cash. $30 billion of it.
It is the total quantum of cash which throws you off first.
Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, all put together, generated close to $30 billion in cash in fiscal 2017. That’s Rs 1,80,000 crore. That’s a lot of money. Just to put the figure in perspective, it is more than twice the total funding raised by all the unicorns in India put together.
Naturally, this cash has to make its way somewhere.
Some say, there’s always Africa. Over the last decade or so, large Chinese companies have been building roads, ports, railways, airports, dams, schools, hospitals and power equipment all over Africa.