“With digital technology and exponential technology, the world will change (more) in the next 20 years than in the last 300 years,” proclaimed India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, in a speech on Saturday.
Accepting his second consecutive Economic Times “Business Leader of the Year” award, and on the cusp of his company’s portentous venture to bring high-speed broadband services to India’s masses, Ambani, chairman of telecom giant Reliance Jio, said he believes India represents the biggest investment opportunity in the world right now. He went on to predict that over the next decade India will become one of the world’s top 3 economies, tripling in size from $2.5 to $7 trillion.
In the face of such rapid change, Ambani said, his company Reliance Jio had risen to the moment – and the rest of India should follow suit.
Ambani used the opportunity of his acceptance speech to call for forward-thinking investment in technology in India, telling his audience, “It’s time for India not to follow but to be pioneers.” He championed, not surprisingly, investments in data and high-speed Internet – the two markets Reliance Jio has aggressively entered.
“Data is the new oil … and we have to ensure every Indian has access to it,” Ambani said. “We have to provide Indians the ubiquitous access to high-speed Internet,” he added.
Reliance Jio has indeed acted as a pioneer, albeit a controversial one. As Ambani boasted in his speech, his company bucked the trend for years by investing not abroad but into telecommunications in India. Attracting customers with an unprecedented offer of free, unlimited voice calls and unlimited data at rock-bottom prices, the investment proved a big success while also drawing the ire of other telecom operators unable to match Jio in a price battle.
Now, Ambani and Jio are making big incursions into the market of broadband and television. Jio is set to launch high-speed fiber to the home (FTTH) broadband services by early next year. They are expected to woo customers with premium offers such as ultra-high speed of up to 1 gigabit per second.
A market “disruptor” to some, the company is seeking to make waves in another market, and many are wondering whether Jio can duplicate the success it’s had in telecoms. “If this next investment and experiment succeeds”, a top industry executive told Business Standard, “the number of households with TV and broadband, currently growing very slowly, could just explode.”