India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani has credited the idea of the country’s youngest and only profitable telecom operator Reliance Jio to his daughter Isha Ambani who had complained of slow internet speeds at her Mumbai house when she was on a holiday break during her college days at Yale.
The three-year-old phenomenon could be a perfect case study of a disruptive business model in a hyper-competitive telecom sector in a country of a billion people, most deprived of internet before 2016 or had access to expensive mobile data.
“The idea of Jio was first seeded by my daughter, Isha, in 2011. She was a student at Yale (in the US) and was home for holidays. She wanted to submit some coursework, and she said, “Dad, the internet in our house sucks," Ambani had told an audience in London in March 2018 after receiving the Financial Times-ArcelorMittal award for “boldness in business".
Born out of that idea was a mobile services provider which took the revolutionary step of making voice calls completely free and brought data prices to rock-bottom. Jio became a company whose identity was in stark contrast with that of a traditional telecom company that made money by selling SIM cards.
At a time when India did not have enough 4G enabled handsets, Reliance also launched a 4G LTE feature phone called Jio Phone in 2017, which was offered free to customers for refundable security deposit of ₹1,500.
What is perhaps most interesting is that Jio is the only Reliance company to have its own logo. All other companies across retail and energy under the Reliance umbrella use the old company logo.
Not many know that the idea to have a different logo that would stand out from the rest of the businesses and identity of the “old Reliance" was Isha Ambani’s brainchild. She convinced the family to go for a new Jio logo which comes in eight primary colours unlike the Reliance logo.
Isha worked with a German designer to bring out the new logo in eight festive colours of India to represent the diversity of the country. In fact, a close look would reveal the dot matrices on the logo. A dot matrix is a two-dimensional patterned array, used to represent characters, symbols and images. Every modern technology uses dot matrices for display of information, including mobile phones, televisions, and printer.
Isha and her twin brother Akash represent the face of “new Reliance" and are not just active in the youngest Reliance company but have also taken centre-stage in the last two annual general meetings and have showcased what the future Reliance has to offer.
In the last RIL AGM on 12 August, the twins displayed the latest technologies that Jio had been working on and how its latest wired broadband offering JioFiber could change the way India lives and does business.
Combining high-speed internet, telephony, television and movies, JioFiber will offer additional features for home security, multiplayer gaming, multiparty video conferencing, virtual shopping and immersive viewing through wearable headsets.
That Jio never intended to be a traditional telco but a complete digital services platform can also be seen from the string of acquisitions and investments it made even before it commercially launched operations in September 2016. In fact, from July 2016 to August 2019, it acquired stakes in 18 companies across sectors such as artificial intelligence, media, entertainment, software simulation, logistics, music streaming. Not a single company of these 18 firms was in the traditional mobile services space.
Going forward, the new Reliance, which aims to get 50% revenue from its consumer business such as retail and telecom, plans to leverage its network to create business models in areas such as education, health, entertainment, banking, etc. The company wants India to take the lead in internet services in areas such as smart devices, energy, and digital transactions.
Reliance expects that in the next two years, there will be more than 2 billion connected IoT (internet of things) devices in our country and Jio aims to connect at least 1 billion of them on its IoT platform, which is expected to be a ₹20,000-crore a year revenue opportunity. 5G will also be a significant milestone for the company.
The future is bright, as Ambani pointed out in the company’s AGM last month. “Before Jio, India was data dark. And now with Jio, India is data shining bright".