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India’s Richest Man Unveils Revolutionary $12 Internet-Connected Phone

India’s Richest Man Unveils Revolutionary $12 Internet-Connected Phone

Mukesh Ambani, the wealthiest individual in India, is introducing a new internet-connected mobile phone model priced at $12. This move aims to disrupt the market for affordable phones that are utilized by approximately 250 million people.

By launching a low-cost internet-connected mobile phone, Ambani seeks to provide access to digital connectivity and services to a significant portion of the population that currently relies on affordable devices. The availability of such an affordable phone has the potential to bridge the digital divide and enable more individuals to access the internet, communicate, and benefit from various online services.

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Ambani’s initiative aligns with the broader goal of expanding digital inclusion in India, where mobile phones have become a primary means of accessing the internet for many individuals. By introducing an affordable model, he aims to make connectivity more accessible and affordable, empowering more people to participate in the digital economy and enjoy the benefits of online connectivity.

This disruptive move by Mukesh Ambani reflects his commitment to democratizing access to technology and driving digital transformation in India. It has the potential to bring about significant changes in the mobile phone market, making internet-connected devices more affordable and enabling a larger segment of the population to enjoy the advantages of digital connectivity.

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio is launching the “Jio Bharat” phone, which represents his most affordable offering in the non-smartphone market segment. These non-smartphone devices, often referred to as “feature” phones, are widely used by approximately 250 million people in India. The Jio Bharat phone will initially be introduced on a trial basis, indicating a phased rollout strategy by Reliance Jio to gauge market response and gather feedback.

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By targeting the non-smartphone market, Ambani aims to cater to the large segment of the population that still relies on feature phones for their communication needs. The affordability of the Jio Bharat phone is expected to make internet-connected devices more accessible to a wider audience, empowering users with basic digital connectivity and services.

Reliance Jio, the telecom and digital services arm of Reliance Industries, has been a significant player in the Indian telecommunications market, driving digital transformation and expanding internet penetration across the country. The introduction of the Jio Bharat phone aligns with Jio’s mission of bringing affordable connectivity to every Indian and bridging the digital divide.

The Jio Bharat phone, priced at Rs 999 or $12, represents the latest disruptive offering from Jio, which is backed by Google and Facebook. Jio previously disrupted India’s mobile telecoms sector in 2016 with its entry and the introduction of initially-free data and highly affordable voice plans. This move ignited intense competition in the market, leading to Jio and Bharti Airtel emerging as the dominant players in what is now considered the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, effectively forming a duopoly.

Jio, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries conglomerate, has been instrumental in reshaping India’s telecommunications landscape. Its disruptive strategies and aggressive pricing have played a significant role in driving digital inclusion and expanding internet access across the country. The introduction of the Jio Bharat phone at such an affordable price point is another step towards Jio’s mission of providing affordable connectivity to all segments of the Indian population.

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By leveraging the support of tech giants like Google and Facebook, Jio has been able to establish itself as a formidable force in the industry. Its disruptive approach and innovative offerings have transformed the mobile telecoms sector in India, resulting in significant market share gains for Jio and reshaping the competitive dynamics of the industry.

With the launch of the Jio Bharat phone, Jio aims to further solidify its position in the market and extend its reach to a large base of users who rely on feature phones. This move not only enhances Jio’s market presence but also contributes to the ongoing digital transformation and internet penetration in India.

According to Jayanth Kolla, founder, and partner at Convergence Catalyst, Jio’s pricing strategy from the outset signaled their intention to target the entire Indian population. He noted that even today, around 20% of India’s data subscribers still use feature phones. Kolla characterized Jio’s latest offering as an effort to attract customers with lower incomes who may have been discouraged from going online due to high prices.

Jio’s disruptive pricing and affordable plans have played a significant role in expanding internet access in India. By offering cost-effective options, Jio has been able to tap into a previously underserved market segment, including those who are unable to afford more expensive devices or data plans. The introduction of the Jio Bharat phone at an affordable price point is a strategic move to capture the attention of these potential customers and bring them into the digital fold.

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The objective of Jio’s inclusive pricing strategy is to address the barriers that have hindered internet adoption among lower-income individuals, making connectivity more accessible and affordable for a broader section of the population. By mopping up customers with lower incomes and providing them with affordable connectivity options, Jio aims to bridge the digital divide and enable more people to benefit from the advantages of being online.

Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Jio, emphasized that there are still 250 million mobile phone users in India who are stuck in the 2G era and unable to access basic internet features. He highlighted this issue at a time when the world is on the verge of a 5G revolution, indicating the need to bridge the digital divide.

The “Bharat” phone, named after India in various languages, is not the first handset introduced by Jio. In 2017, Jio launched the JioPhone, a 4G-enabled feature phone priced at Rs 1,500. Customers had the option to return the phone after three years and receive a refund.

These initiatives by Jio, including the JioPhone and the newly introduced Jio Bharat phone, aim to provide affordable access to the internet and its basic features for those who are currently unable to tap into the digital world. By offering budget-friendly devices, Jio seeks to empower a larger segment of the Indian population to join the digital revolution.

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Jio, after receiving investment from Alphabet in 2020, launched the JioPhone Next smartphone in 2021. However, it had limited commercial success as it was sold exclusively online and priced at Rs4,499.

The Jio Bharat phone, on the other hand, will be available at a price of Rs999 ($12) and will come with a monthly plan offering unlimited voice calls and 14GB of data within India for Rs123 ($1.50). In comparison, competitor Bharti Airtel provides an unlimited call and 2GB data plan for Rs179 ($2.18).

The Jio Bharat phone will be assembled in India and will feature Jio’s video and music streaming apps, JioCinema and JioSaavn, as well as digital payment capability through India’s UPI network and a camera. Notably, WhatsApp and Facebook are not currently available on the Jio Bharat phone, despite Meta’s investment in Jio.

According to Prabhu Ram, head of industry intelligence at CyberMedia Research, the conversion from 2G to 4G in India is crucial for ongoing digital transformation. He believes that Jio’s new phone is a step in the right direction to expand access for customers at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. However, it remains to be seen if Jio’s efforts will gain significant traction among consumers.

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