The richest man in the country who runs India's largest private enterprise by revenue today announced his ambitious plan for taking India among Top 5 nations in fixed-line broadband. Currently, the country ranks 134th in the global ranking for wired internet connectivity. Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries (RIL) has come a long way ever since its IPO in 1977. The world's largest producer of polyester fibre is now aiming to connect 50 million homes with its high-speed optic fiber network. RIL has already invested Rs 250,000 crore for creating digital infrastructure to provide mobile and broadband connectivity.
Addressing the 41st annual general meeting (AGM) of the company, Ambani said, "I can tell you with confidence that Reliance has reached an inflection point." His telecom venture, Jio, which disrupted the sector in the past two years has made big strides. Jio has more than doubled its customer base to 215 million since last year. It has become the only company in the world to achieve this feat within 22 months after its launch.
Before commencing his speech, Ambani pointed out that "this is the first AGM as Reliance begins its Golden Decade". The refining-to-retail-to-telecom conglomerate is now betting big on consumer business. And Jio could be its golden goose. RIL's consumer businesses - Jio and Retail - represented about 13 per cent of the consolidated EBIDTA, up from a mere 2 per cent last year. Ambani said this increase is especially remarkable because it is taking place at a time when the hydrocarbon businesses are growing rapidly.
But this could just be the beginning for Jio. Ambani said that his telecom venture has nearly doubled its network capacity in the last one year. "Even after serving the needs of over 215 million customers, the capacity utilization of the Jio network is less than 20 per cent. Which means, we can multiply our customer base without additional investment," Ambani claimed.
At the shareholders' meeting in Mumbai, Ambani said they will now extend this fiber connectivity to homes, merchants, small and medium enterprises and large enterprises simultaneously across 1,100 cities to offer the most advanced fiber-based broadband connectivity solutions.
However, the company laid out a very critical condition for its rollout.
"Starting this Independence Day, August 15th you can start registering your interest for JioGigaFiber through both MyJio and Jio.com. We will prioritize our JioGigaFiber rollout to those localities from where we receive the highest number of registrations," Ambani said.
While this may hardly help Jio in fulfilling its motto - which is to connect everyone and everything, everywhere - but it could go a long way in keeping the capital outlay for JioGigaFiber in check. Ambani even asked people to exhort their neighbours to register for JioGigaFiber.
JioGigaFiber will not be your regular broadband connection. Along with the internet, the company plans Ultra HD entertainment on your large screen TV, multi-party video conferencing from the comfort of your home, voice-activated virtual assistance, smart home solutions where 100s of devices like security cameras, home appliances and even light switches can be securely controlled by owners using a smartphone - even from outside the home - and more. "This will redefine 24x7 emergency help for all homes across India," added Ambani.
JioGigaFiber will connect the GigaTV set-top box to your large screen TV, which will allow you to watch "600 plus" channels and every other type of content possible. What more, you will be able to "tell" your Jio Remote what you want to watch, and the voice-command feature - available in multiple Indian languages - will play it immediately on your TV. "This changes the way India will watch TV," Ambani's children Akash and Isha summed up in their demo.
It's not only device (JioPhone/Giga TV) and carrier (Jio/JioGigaFiber), RIL has also been aggressively expanding in OTT content space. Last year, it acquired a 24.9 per cent stake in Balaji Telefilms. Jio TV app offers over 432 live channels across 15 regional languages. In February this year, it acquired 5 per cent stake in NYSE-listed Eros International for Rs 1,000 crore. The partnership with Eros is to set-up a fund to create and produce content. Jio had earlier joined hands with Hotstar to offer Jio TV service to its users. Viacom18, a joint venture of RIL-owned Network 18, and Viacom has a portfolio entertainment channels such as Colors, MTV, etc.
Ambani also outlined his vision of creating a hybrid, online-to-offline new commerce platform. To achieve this, Reliance will partner with 3 crore small merchants and shop-keepers all over India who provide the last-mile physical market connectivity. "Our new commerce platform will redefine retail in India by enabling all customers - rich or poor, whether at home or on mobile - to transition from simple shopping to personalised Immersive shopping experience. This will be made possible by Augmented Reality, holographic technology and VR devices," Ambani said.
However, only time will tell whether all this will help RIL take on the likes of Flipkart-Walmart or Amazon.