Vi, India’s third largest telco by subscriber base, was on the brink of collapse less than a year ago. But green shoots are visible now. Vi is hiring once again. Not just from rival telcos but from its alumni network.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said he’s “committed” to Vi. As one of the telco’s promoters, he was perhaps using the business heavyweights’ gathering to dispel any lingering notion of abandonment stemming from August 2021, when he had written to the Indian government and thrown in the towel thrown in the towel The Ken Vi’s last stand Read more .
“The intent is to find a financial partner to come and invest in the company,” said Birla in Davos.
A few days earlier, on 23 May, Vi managing director Ravinder Takkar had said said Economic Times Close to tying up Rs 20,000 crore to fight rivals: Vodafone Idea MD Ravinder Takkar Read more the company was “closer than ever before” to raising Rs 20,000 crore (~$2.6 billion). It’s very likely that one of the investors is the e-commerce and cloud services giant Amazon. The Ken has learnt from at least four reliable sources close to the government and Vi that Amazon carried out dogged due diligence on the telco in the first quarter of 2021.
Though the two companies had conducted exploratory talks earlier, they became more serious in early 2021. “It was also the result of the government [being desirous] of match making… By mid-year, Ravi Shankar Prasad [the minister under whose watch competition in the telecom sector became value destructive] resigned. It was almost like the government was atoning for its sins with the sector on the brink of a duopoly,” said a senior industry executive privy to these discussions.
Amazon has been searching for a telecom partner. In mid-2020, Reuters reported reported Reuters Exclusive: Amazon in talks to buy $2 billion stake in Indian telco Bharti Airtel - sources Read more that Amazon was looking to invest $2 billion in Bharti Airtel. By then, Microsoft had struck a deep partnership with Reliance-owned Jio Platforms while Google and Facebook had already invested $10.2 billion combined in the company, signalling out that the big tech’s foot was firmly in the telecom tent.
The Amazon-Airtel deal didn’t happen in the end, but earlier this year, Google said it would invest it would invest Airtel Airtel and Google partner to help grow India’s digital ecosystem Read more up to $1 billion in Airtel.