Jio feature phones may democratise digital, say industry experts

Reliance Industries launched the Jio phone with 4G enabled features aimed at further disrupting the country’s highly competitive telecom sector

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jul 28, 2017 2:03 PM

Using digital disruption and adapting to it is no easy accomplishment. Unlike digital upstarts who look to make inroads into an industry, established organisations have a significant advantage—an established business to build on. Reliance Industries’ launch of the Jio phone with 4G enabled features post the recent free internet move says a thing or two about this. 

“We are at the beginning of an era where data is the new oil,” said Chairman and MD of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani, disclosing his goal of wanting to democratise the digital culture through this launch. The much-talked about ‘zero cost’ phones provide an option of recharging with a Rs. 53 voucher that will run for a week or with a Rs. 23 coupon carrying two-day validity.

Industry experts acknowledge that the phone has the potential to democratise digital for the whole country. “The phone will give almost the entire population access to information on a real-time basis; it will make entertainment on demand and create unprecedented reach for content producers. Basically only a small portion of the country was living in a digital age,” says Vivek Bhargava, CEO, iProspect.

With unlimited data, capped at 500MB per day, the phone is most likely to raise the prospect of future disruption. “I believe it is a clear win-win. More accessibility, more data, more penetration, more exposure, more screen and content space to market, more demand, more consumption and thus a better economy. Reaching out to the bottom of the pyramid and empowering them with digital will have a great long-term positive impact,” says Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder of White Rivers Media. He estimates that this move will welcome at least a couple of hundred million new digital users.

Chetan Asher, CEO, Tonic Media believes that the phone will basically set the minimum common standard for mobile devices and open up avenues of opportunities for digital advertising. “This will set the motion for migration of over 145 million feature phone owners to smartphones. It simply opens up a whole new dimension for digital advertising. Digital video consumption has been on the ride and with the mass migration those numbers will multiply quickly,” he says.

Asher believes that digital advertising is no longer focused on the affluent class and this move would only bring investments by brands on par with offline media platforms. As the network continues its disruptive streak, it will be interesting to see if this will cause organisations to think differently regarding their business models and cause others to come up with similar offers to minimise danger.

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