Bharti Airtel will offer its customers a range of cloud services spanning from data migration to analytics
Bharti Airtel will offer its customers a range of cloud services spanning from data migration to analytics © Bloomberg

Bharti Airtel has struck a deal with Amazon to fend off Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio and Microsoft in the battle for India’s cloud computing market.

The strategic alliance between the mobile operator and Amazon Web Services, the cloud business of Jeff Bezos, is the latest big bet taken by US tech giants on the rapidly digitising country of 1.4bn people, where Facebook, Google and Microsoft have all made recent investments.

“We’ve decided to go really deep with AWS,” said Harmeen Mehta, head of Airtel’s cloud division, in a press briefing on Wednesday. “This makes a partnership to be reckoned with.”

The deal will see Airtel, India’s second-largest mobile operator with 300m subscribers, offer its customers a range of cloud services spanning from data migration to analytics.

Puneet Chandok, president of Amazon’s commercial business in India and South Asia, called the alliance a “massive opportunity”, adding that the coronavirus pandemic has shown that “digital transformation is not optional any more”.

The deal comes almost exactly a year after rival telecoms group Reliance Jio announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure. Mr Ambani said Jio would provide free connectivity and cloud services to start-ups, throwing down the gauntlet in an intensifying scramble for market share.

In July, Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud, said he was “bullish” on India and would start up a new cloud region in Delhi after launching one in Mumbai three years ago.

Chinese titans Alibaba and Tencent are also starting to deepen their cloud presence in India and south-east Asia, a region that has emerged as a key battleground in the tech war between Washington and Beijing.

India’s public cloud market is expected to be worth $7bn by 2024, reports International Data Corporation, the US market research group.

“We’re seeing massive adoption for cloud as a result of Covid-19, this only helps the customer in the current environment,” said Rishu Sharma, cloud analyst at IDC based in Gurgaon.

“This partnership is most likely going to start a price war,” she said. “The focus is now going to be on guaranteeing better contracts, pricing and an optimal customer service.”

According to market research firm Canalys, AWS holds 32.4 per cent of the global cloud services market, Microsoft Azure 17.6 per cent and Google Cloud is tied with Alibaba Cloud at 6 per cent.

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