Japan's SoftBank pushes $10-bn India online market plans

Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO SoftbankSoftbank, one of Japan's major telecom and internet corporations, is looking for opportunities in India's fast growing e-commerce and telecom sectors, with plans to invest up to $10 billion (over Rs60,000 crore) over the next 10 years.

SoftBank, which last year bought No 3 US mobile carrier Sprint Corp for $21.6 billion (See: Sprint shareholders vote for SoftBank's $21.6-bn deal), started its India foray with a $627-million stake buy in fast-growing online marketplace Snapdeal.

Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of Softbank, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said India is his company's top priority.

Son, whose India ambitions flared up after Prime Ministers Narendra Modi's Japan visit, has laid out a plan to invest $10 billion in the country over a 10-year period.

''Mr Son today assured the minister that SoftBank would like to invest about $10 billion in India in the coming years. He placed it on record that India is the top most priority for SoftBank,'' the telecom ministry stated in an official release.

The Softbank chairman is reported to have told telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that the visit of the Indian prime minister to Japan had created a climate of hope and optimism about greater economic cooperation between the two countries

During his meeting with Prasad, Son highlighted the company's bullish outlook for India's e-commerce sector, but requested the minister to iron out various spectrum-related issues and develop a robust mobile infrastructure, the communications and IT ministry said in a statement.

The minister has "assured him that the government is working hard to sort out the issues", the statement said.

SoftBank didn't disclose the stake it will have in Snapdeal, which will use funds to expand operations to compete with bigger rivals Flipkart.com and Amazon.com.

Cash-rich SoftBank already owns a third of newly listed Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

With a market cap of $92 billion, SoftBank has operations in broadband, fixed line telecom, e-commerce, finance, media and marketing.

In a separate deal announced on Tuesday, SoftBank said it will lead a $210 million investment round with existing investors in ANI Technologies Pvt Ltd, which owns a mobile application for taxi bookings that competes with the likes of Uber.

SoftBank already has made investments in Indian companies, including InMobi and Hike.

Son is reported to have expressed immense faith in India's great e-commerce potential, which he estimates to become a $500 billion business in the next ten years.