Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led telecom startup Reliance Jio has been ranked number one on Fortune's global list for rapidly expanding access to the Internet.
The 'Change the World' list, which includes for-profit companies that help tackle social problems, was released on Monday. It ranked Jio ahead of pharma giant Merck and Bank of America and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma-led Alibaba.
"If access to the Internet is a basic human right -- and the United Nations declared it one in the summer of 2016 -- then Reliance Jio deserves more credit than most for expanding access to it," Fortune said.
Reliance Jio stormed the sector with free calls and data forcing rivals to merge or exit in September 2016 and has amassed 215 million subscribers since then and says it is profitable.
Fortune said Ambani likes to say it provides the public with 'digital oxygen' but two years ago there wasn't much oxygen to go around in the world's second-most-populous country.
Mobile phones crawled on 2G networks, and consumers typically paid more than Rs 200 for one gigabyte of data.
India had just 153 million mobile Internet subscribers among its population of 1.3 billion. Enter Jio, with a speedy 4G network (which it spent billions building out), free calls, and dirt-cheap data (as low as 4 per GB). It has since issued a superlow-cost smartphone and is rolling out fixed broadband service as well, it said.
The resulting 'Jio-fication' has been nothing short of revolutionary. With data use surging and Jio's competitors scrambling to match its offerings, the development has jump-started India's digital economy.
Alibaba is ranked 5th on the list that has food and drug stores Kroger at number six, industrial machinery firm ABB at number 8, and network and communications giant Hughes Network System at number 10.