India’s richest man launches  internet-connected phone

India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is set to disrupt the mobile phone market in India by launching a new internet-connected mobile phone called the “Jio Bharat” at an incredibly affordable price of $12. This move aims to target the vast market of feature phones, which are currently used by approximately 250 million people in the country. The introduction of the Jio Bharat represents Ambani’s most affordable entry into the feature phone market and will initially be available on a trial basis through Ambani’s data unit, Reliance Jio.

Priced at Rs999, or $12, the Jio Bharat is the latest disruptive offering from Jio, which has transformed India’s mobile telecoms sector since 2016. Backed by tech giants Google and Facebook, Jio revolutionized the market by introducing initially free data and incredibly cheap voice plans. This strategic move sparked intense competition and established Jio, along with incumbent Bharti Airtel, as the dominant players in the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, effectively creating a duopoly. Jio operates as part of the Reliance Industries conglomerate.

Right from the beginning, Jio’s pricing strategy made it evident that their goal was to cater to every Indian consumer. Jayanth Kolla, the founder and partner at Convergence Catalyst in Bengaluru, explained that 20% of India’s data subscribers still use feature phones. He described Jio’s latest move as an effort to target customers with the lowest incomes who have previously been unable to afford online access due to prohibitively high prices.

Ambani, the chairperson of Reliance Jio, highlighted that there are still 250 million mobile phone users in India who remain trapped in the 2G era, unable to benefit from the basic features of the internet. This situation is particularly unfortunate as the world stands on the verge of a 5G revolution. The Jio Bharat aims to bridge this digital divide and empower these users with access to essential internet services.

The Jio Bharat is not Jio’s first handset. In 2017, they launched the JioPhone, a 4G-enabled feature phone priced at Rs1,500. The cost was refundable if the phone was returned after three years. Additionally, after Google’s parent company Alphabet acquired a 7.7% stake in Jio through a $4.5 billion investment in 2020, Jio introduced the Android-enabled JioPhone Next smartphone in 2021. However, this device was sold exclusively online and did not achieve significant commercial success due to its higher price of Rs4,499.

With the Jio Bharat, Jio plans to offer a monthly unlimited voice and 14GB data plan in India for just Rs123 ($1.50). In comparison, competitor Bharti Airtel currently provides an unlimited call and 2GB data plan for Rs179 ($2.18). The Jio Bharat will be assembled in India and will come preloaded with Reliance’s own video and music streaming apps, namely JioCinema and JioSaavn. It will also offer digital payment capabilities through India’s UPI network and feature a camera. However, at present, popular applications like WhatsApp and Facebook are not available on the Jio Bharat, despite Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta owning a 10% stake in Jio following a $5.7 billion investment.

Prabhu Ram, the head of industry intelligence at CyberMedia Research, emphasized that the conversion from 2G to 4G networks is crucial for India’s ongoing digital transformation. He acknowledged that Jio’s new phone is a step in the right direction for expanding access to customers at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. However, he also cautioned that the success of J

By 4niso

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *