Home / Companies / News /  Reliance Jio prepares strong rural push to boost Jio Phone sales

New Delhi: Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd is preparing a rural push for Jio Phone, with an assembly facility already operational in Chennai and another coming up in Tirupati.

The company, which shipped the initial batch of 6 million feature phones from a vendor in China, recently started assembly operations in Chennai.

“We have already started assembling in Chennai; the capacity is enough to meet current requirement. The Tirupati plant, once the land is allotted, should come up in 12 months. The first batch of Jio Phones from this (Tirupati) plant should be out within 12-18 months," a person familiar with the development said, requesting anonymity.

Reliance Industries Ltd, the parent of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, on 25 February signed an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh government, under which the company will invest Rs15,000 crore in an electronics manufacturing plant on a 150-acre site near Tirupati to manufacture mobile phones and set-top boxes, said a PTI report.

The company, in order to target the 500-million strong feature phone market, is simultaneously building a sales network in rural areas, apart from making the Jio Phone available on online platform Amazon.

The company runs Jio Centres in urban areas and Jio Points, which are small offices in semi-urban and rural pockets, offering after-sales services and customer assistance.

“There are over 1,000 Jio Centres in urban areas. The company is inching close to having 7,000 Jio Points, out of which 3,500-4,000 are currently being used as a distribution chain for the Jio Phone and the rest may be used for the same purpose in the future," the first person cited above said.

The Jio Phone is sold through Reliance Retail, the consumer business arm of Reliance Industries Ltd.

The company does not have plans for a full-fledged TV campaign for Jio Phone, but is targeting advertisements in regional print media, radio and through local fairs. Reliance Jio will also make available over 20 million Jio Phones in Uttar Pradesh within the next two months on a priority basis, Ambani had said recently at the state investor summit.

With the KaiOS, powering Jio Phones, hosted on Reliance Jio’s data centres, some of the software-related issues have also been ironed out, a second person aware of the matter said.

Earlier this month, Reliance Jio made Facebook available on Jio Phone. Popular messaging app WhatsApp is not available, though. “WhatsApp was not ready with the architectural solution for KaiOS," a second person in the know said, adding the firm has made a compatible version of a “limited functionality WhatsApp".

“We are working on it. We have got Facebook. It’s the same firm.... WhatsApp will take some time as you need time to redevelop and optimize the app; it to fit into the small memory of a feature phone," the first person cited above said, adding it is also a lucrative opportunity for the messaging service to tap into the India’s feature phone user base.

On Tuesday, Airtel announced a tie-up with Google to bring low-cost smartphones powered by Android Oreo (Go edition) to India by March. Android Oreo (Go edition) is a configuration of the Android operating system optimized for devices with 1GB of RAM or less. “We are also gearing up for Android Go. Jio is working on 10-11 apps being prepared in-house for Android Go," the second person said.

An emailed query sent to Reliance Jio remained unanswered till press time.

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