India’s most-valued private company Reliance Industries (RIL) held its 44th annual general meeting (AGM) on June 24. The virtual is being closely watched by Dalal Street. RIL, which has a track record of meeting its target ahead of deadlines, is expected to make announcements across its telecom, retail and O2C business. Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani said that post a record fundraising round, RIL has a “strong balance sheet with high liquidity” that will support growth for its businesses. Here are the key announcements made in the second consecutive virtual annual general meet amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Disclaimer: Moneycontrol is a part of the Network18 group. Network18 is controlled by Independent Media Trust, of which Reliance Industries is the sole beneficiary.)
Reliance Industries (RIL) unveiled its much-anticipated smartphone, JioPhone Next, in partnership with Google, at its 44th annual general meeting on June 24, a move that is expected to disrupt the smartphone market and bring millions of Indians online.
Launching the phone, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani said, "JioPhone Next has been launched. It will be an android smartphone powered by an operating system for the Indian market. It will be available in India from Ganesh Chaturthi and will be the most affordable smartphone globally."
"We need an ultra-affordable 4G smartphone needed to make India 2G mukt", Ambani said, adding the company wanted India to be 5G yukt . The phone will be powered by a voice assistant, AR, a good camera and support for the latest Android updates. Google and Jio have also forged a tie-up where the latter will use Google Cloud for 5G.
"Our vision was to bring affordable access to information for Indians. We optimised a version of Android OS for this. It will have a great camera and support for the latest updates and is built for India. We are taking partnership further with a 5G partnership between Google and Jio. As part of this, Reliance will also shift core retail infra to Google cloud infra," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at the AGM.
Catch all the live updates of RIL 44th AGM here
Last July, Google invested $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms, taking a 7.73 percent stake in the company. This was the first investment from Google under its India Digitisation Fund, through which it plans to invest $10 billion over the next five-seven years to accelerate its digital economy.
Google and Jio Platforms had also entered into a commercial agreement to jointly develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimisations to the Android operating system and the Play Store, an effort that would help millions of users in India become owners of smartphones.
Expanding customer base
Reliance Jio has over 400 million subscribers, with an estimated 100 million using its existing feature phones. The new phone, likely to be the most affordable 4G smartphone globally, will help RIL expand the market and bring more users online.
Jio disrupted the telecom industry a few years ago by offering free calls and cheap data, a move that forced its rivals to drive down pricing. "We believe Jio to potentially ship at least 10 million units of the new Android smartphone this year and this will expand the market size to 170 mn units in 2021 in India up from 152 mn in 2020. Jio could have sold more but ongoing supply shortage will keep a check on supply," Neil Shah of Counterpoint Research told Moneycontrol.
India has 550 million smartphone users out of 850 million unique phone mobile phone users, according to data from Counterpoint Research. On average, 480 million users are regularly online. While more than half a billion Indians are online, the majority of them do not have access to the Internet, and fewer still own a smartphone, gaps that Jio wants to solve with its new offering.
Jio's investments in telecom infrastructure, low-cost phones, and affordable internet have helped bring millions of Indians online in the last few years. It's also given a shot in the arm to India's internet economy, giving startups a large pool of customers who are buying and transacting online.
According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, the average traffic per smartphone user in India has increased from 13GB per month in 2019 to 14.6 GB in 2020. The average traffic per smartphone in the India region stands second highest globally and is projected to grow to around 40GB a month in 2026.
The report also said that 5G will represent around 26 percent of mobile subscriptions in India by the end of 2026, estimated at about 33 million subscriptions.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on May 4, 2021, gave permission to telecom service providers (TSPs) to conduct trials for use and applications of 5G technology for a period of six months. Those who applied include Bharti Airtel, MTNL, Reliance Jio Infocomm, and Vodafone Idea. The six-month trial period includes a two-month period for procurement and setting up of the equipment.
For the trials, TSPs have tied up with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology providers like C-DOT, Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, besides Jio, which will also be conducting trials using its own indigenous technology.
The US had said that India’s decision authorizing 5G trials without Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE was a sovereign one, asserting that America is deeply concerned about the dangers of installing networks with equipment that can be manipulated, disrupted or potentially controlled by China.
Disclosure: Moneycontrol is a part of the Network18 group. Network18 is controlled by Independent Media Trust, of which Reliance Industries is the sole beneficiary.