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India’s small and medium businesses (SMBs), which are struggling due to the covid-19 pandemic, got a shot in the arm on Wednesday with social media giant Facebook announcing a $5.7-billion investment in Jio Platforms Ltd, which is owned by Reliance Industries Ltd.

“Our goal is to enable new opportunities for businesses of all sizes, but especially for the more than 60 million small businesses across India," the companies said in a joint statement. The deal brings together Jio’s connectivity platform, which has over 388 million users, and Facebook’s over 328 million monthly active users (MAU), besides instant messaging app WhatsApp’s 400-plus MAUs.

So, the deal will strengthen Facebook’s commitment to accelerate the growth of SMBs and entrepreneurship in India.

Ajit Mohan, vice-president and managing director, Facebook India, had said in an interview with Mint last year, that investing in startups that focus on creating growth for SMBs will be a conscious strategy, as it is an opportunity to drive India’s economic growth and social development. Last year, Facebook had also invested in social commerce platform Meesho and, earlier this year, in edtech startup Unacademy.

With Jio Platforms, Facebook now wants to strengthen the entire ecosystem for SMBs and help realise the vision of Digital India. “This is a confluence of forces between two market leaders and thereby allows them significant inroads and ability to better understand customer behaviour. The coming together of these two giants also lends depth across key layers of the value chain, including connectivity (broadband, mobile telephony), commerce, payments (via UPI/WhatsApp), content (Reliance movies and exchange (Facebook, WhatsApp)," said Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst, Greyhound Research.

During the lockdown, kiranas, hardware and electrical stores have been using WhatsApp for connecting with buyers. By leveraging the power of instant messaging app Whatsapp with JioMart, Jio’s small business initiative, will enable people to connect with businesses, shops and make purchases in a seamless mobile experience, Facebook said.

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