Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, (r), with wife Nita Ambani arrives for the 40th Annual General Meeting of the company in Mumbai, July 21. (Mitesh Bhuvad/PTI)
India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani announced, July 21, the launch of a 4G-enabled feature phone priced at “effective” zero that bundles life-long free voice calls with dirt cheap data in a bid to woo the 50 crore low-income users to his 10-month old Jio.
Ambani’s oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries is focusing on digital business, together with core refining and petrochemical business.
Jio stormed into the highly competitive telecom sector last September with a six-month promotional offer of free voice and data, which has helped it mobilize 125 million users, and is now looking to hit it big with a new phone.
Addressing the annual meeting of shareholders of RIL, the parent of Jio, Chairman Ambani said the handset, named JioPhone, will have “an effective price of Rs. 0” as buyers will be able to get the device for a one-time refundable security deposit of Rs. 1,500.
The deposit will be refunded after 36 months on return of the phone.
Voice calling will be free for life while unlimited data packs will cost Rs. 153 a month on the device, he added.
JioPhone will be available for user testing in beta form from August 15 and for pre-booking from August 24. “JioPhone will be physically available to those who have pre-booked, on a first come first serve basis, September onwards,” Ambani said.
The company will make available 5 million phones every week and manufacture all JioPhones in India from “last quarter of this year,” he said indicating that the phones are made by a vendor outside the country.
Ambani also used the 40th AGM to introduce his twin children—Akash and Isha—who were called on to the stage to present features of the phone. The 25-year-old twins also did a live demo of the phones.
Ambani’s wife Nita, already on board of RIL, was present on the dais while mother Kokilaben and younger son Anant sat in the front row.
“Reliance@50 will aspire to become—and will certainly become—one among the top 50 companies in the world,” he said in the one-and-half hour speech that was punctuated with applause and whistling by those present.
“I am confident that Reliance’s own growth over the next 10 years and our contribution to the Indian economy will surpass what it has achieved in the past 40 years,” he said.
RIL’s energy and material businesses have potential to more than double pre-tax profit to Rs. 100,000 crore within the next few years, he claimed.
A short movie on the group’s founder and Mukesh’s father Dhirubhai Ambani was played mid-way through the speech. At the end of the film, Ambani announced that while the shareholders were watching the film, the board decided to issue one bonus share for every share held—the first such issue after 12 years—and a dividend of Rs. 13 a share.
From a textiles company, RIL has grown into energy, materials, consumer and digital businesses. The annual general meeting marked the 40th anniversary since its IPO.
“Our turnover has grown from Rs. 70 crore in 1977 to over Rs. 3,30,000 crore today—an increase of nearly 4,700 times.
Our net profit has grown from Rs. 3 crore to nearly Rs. 30,000 crore in the same period—a growth of over 10,000 times,” he said. “Our total assets have increased from Rs. 33 crore to over Rs. 700,000 crore and a multiple of over 20,000 times.
Market capitalization has multiplied to Rs. 500,000 crore,”
He said further that Rs. 1,000 invested in Reliance shares in 1977 are today worth Rs. 16,54,503 — over 1,600 times more valuable. “In simple terms, this means that your money has doubled every two and a half years over the past 40 years,” he told shareholders.
RIL has invested Rs. 200,000 crore in starting a national fourth-generation mobile network that added seven customers per second every single day since launch. “In just 6 months of Jio’s launch, data consumption in India went from 20 crore GB to 120 crore GB per month and has been multiplying ever since… Indeed, India has overtaken the U.S. and China in mobile data usage,” Ambani added.
Before Jio’s launch, India was 155th in the world in mobile broadband penetration. “Now, India is number 1 in mobile data consumption and well on its way to becoming number 1 in mobile broadband penetration in coming months,” he asserted.