In the last ten years over half a billion Indians have connected to the internet. That makes India the second-largest internet market in the world, second only to China. As a result, big tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Netflix and Amazon have been trying to get a piece of that massive pie for years. However, as India begins to enact sweeping changes to their internet regulations, big tech is facing a watershed moment.
Collectively, all of these tech companies invested billions of dollars into the Indian internet market. That’s not even counting the billions of dollars that Asian companies have invested in the market over the years. There is a lot of money in the Indian internet world. Which is a problem given the government’s new regulatory leanings.
A slew of new regulations are forthcoming in India that are designed to more tightly control how these companies collect and store data, deal with user privacy and sell products online.
These changes would not normally be as alarming except for India’s propensity to completely shut down internet access to their citizens whenever it suits the government’s purposes. This puts tech companies in a tricky situation. Do they acquiesce to the Indian government’s demands and in doing so tacitly support an oppressive regime? Or do they slowly pull their business away from the country.
The answer is likely to be somewhere in the middle. India currently has roughly 700 million online users, with 700 million more expected to get online in the very near future. That’s too big of a market for most of these corporations to ignore.
However, these tech companies are already distancing themselves in different ways. For example, neither Bezos nor Nadella publically met with India’s Prime Minister Modi during their visits to India this year. This type of behavior is likely to continue in the near future.
India is a huge market for tech companies, but their politics make for dangerous waters to navigate through. It will be interesting to watch how these companies balance profit with morality moving forward.