Google’s announcement of $22 million investment into KaiOS is slated to strengthen the pole position of Reliance Jio in the Indian telecom sector.
With the investment, KaiOS-featured phones (JioPhone) will have popular products and features of Google. This is a significant move from Google which strengthens its position in the feature phone segment (with a limited feature of smartphones).
On the other hand, the integration of such popular products will further complement the existing features offered via JioPhone, which has the largest market share in the feature phone segment in India.
For Google, the investment in KaiOS offers an acceleration to its ambitious ‘Next Billion Users’ programme in India and other emerging markets. Importantly, the operating system also bridges a relationship between RIL and Google.
The Mukesh Ambani-led group had invested $7 million in KaiOS for a 16 per cent stake in March this year.
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Besides JioPhone, KaiOS has tied up with manufacturers like TCL, HMD Global, and Micromax and has partnerships with carriers such as Reliance Jio, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
Amongst the aforementioned mobile companies, only Jio has managed to influence the feature phone market with its low-cost 4G handsets powered by the cheap data packs from Jio.
Through its ‘Next Billion Users’ program, Google aims to reach out to people in emerging Internet markets with customised products and features on desktops, smartphones, as well as on feature phones.
Meanwhile, the growth of KaiOS has been eye catchy. According to a Counterpoint research, within a year, KaiOS powered phones have grown 11,400 per cent with shipments close to 23 million units in Q1 2018.
Similarly, JioPhone has also grown at a staggering rate. It sold around 21 million units for the quarter, roughly 7 million per month, and commands about 36 per cent share of the feature phone segment in the first quarter of the CY.
Since KaiOS-powered phones will now have pre-bundle Google apps, Jio will continue eroding the market share of incumbents such as local brands of Micromax, Karbonn and telecom companies – Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea.
The development was first reported by TechCrunch.