Amazon reportedly considering $2 billion stake in Indian telecom operator Bharti Airtel

Manish Singh
US founder and CEO of Amazon.com Jeff Bezos poses atop a lorry after handing over a two billion dollar cheque to Indian Vice President and Country Manager of Amazon.in, Amit Agarwal (unseen) in Bangalore on September 28, 2014. The investment will go towards raising the bar for online shopping in India. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

Amazon .com may follow its American peer Facebook's footsteps in securing a slice of India’s booming telecom market.

The e-commerce giant, which has invested over $6.5 billion in India, is in early-stage talks to buy a 5% stake worth at least $2 billion in Bharti Airtel, the third-largest telecom operator in India, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. While Bharti Airtel said, "We routinely work with all digital and OTT players and have deep engagement with them to bring their products, content and services for our wide customer base. Beyond that there is no other activity to report."

Amazon’s interest in Bharti Airtel comes as Google is said to be in separate talks to buy stake in Vodafone Idea, the second largest telecom operator in India. In April, their rival Facebook bought a 9.99% stake in the nation’s top telecom operator, Reliance Jio Platforms. According to local media reports, Microsoft is also in talks with Reliance Jio Platforms and could invest as much as $2 billion.

Facebook's investment shows India is a major new battleground for Big Tech, said Amit Pau, a former Vodafone Global Group MD and now COO and Partner at Accloud.

"Facebook’s focused attack on Amazon in Indian e-commerce through its partnership with Jio Platforms is the firing gun of an epic showdown between the world’s biggest companies that will see Indian consumers win better services through digitization and boost the economy," he said.

The American giants have formed multiple partnerships with telecom operators in India, a key overseas market for them, over the years to expand their reach in the nation.

Microsoft has a partnership with Reliance Jio to bring Office 365 to millions of small businesses at subsidized cost. Google maintains a similar partnership with Airtel for its Google Cloud suite.

Amazon, which leads the cloud market in India, currently does not maintain any similar deal with a telecom operator — though it had a partnership with Bharti Airtel in the past.