JioPhone Next to bring 300m new rural users online: Time to dial up digital marketing?

The smartphone, which will be launched in Diwali, is expected to give fillip to regional content, voice, and rural advertising, which is highly dependent on unmeasurable mediums like print and outdoor

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Sep 28, 2021 11:36 AM
digital marketing

Reliance Jio and Google's 4G smartphone JioPhone Next, whose launch has been deferred to Diwali, could be a game-changer for the media and advertising industry. Jio and Google want to bring the next 300 million Indian users online through the world's cheapest smartphone.

According to experts, JioPhone Next is expected to give fillip to regional content, voice, and rural advertising, which is highly dependent on unmeasurable mediums like print and outdoor. They also believe that brands and advertisers will also need to start working on their strategy for engaging with this new set of first-time internet users.

During the company's AGM on 24th June, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani had given a clarion call for making India “2G-mukt”. Ambani had noted that India still has nearly 300 million mobile users who use 2G services due to unaffordability of even entry level 4G smartphones.

Expected to be priced at Rs 3499, Ambani had noted that JioPhone Next will have the entire suite of apps from both Google and Jio. Further, the smartphone will be powered by an optimised version of the Android Operating System, that has been jointly developed by Jio and Google, especially for the Indian market. It will also have features like voice assistant, automatic read-aloud of screen text, language translation, smart camera with augmented reality filters and much more.

Mirum India Joint CEO Hareesh Tibrewala said that the JioPhone Next will be a game-changer product which will bring in a new set of users to the internet. He also said that the smartphone will become a huge platform for the telco to promote its own products and services.

“In terms of advertising, it creates an opportunity to reach out to those people who were so far not easy to reach. The audience will suddenly expand due to the smartphones where we can engage these audiences on various kinds of apps. It will also lead to proliferation of local language content because a lot of these users will not necessarily be English speaking,” Tibrewala said.

“We will also see an explosion in voice since many people will not be able to type. JioPhone Next will have in-built voice capabilities. Regional content and voice will see huge proliferation from an advertiser perspective. Advertisers need to quickly figure out as to how they are going to engage with consumers with access to voice. They need to figure out the message, content, and response. They also need to strategise as to how their websites and properties need to engage with these consumers.”

Jio, Tibrewala said, will also have a lot of first-party data which they can marry with the products' ecosystem that they are building. “It will look like an Amazon+ telecom+ advertiser kind of an ecosystem built into one. In developed countries, all three areas have different players, but here in India, one player will be so strong in each of these areas that it is almost like a monopoly being created across e-commerce, content, and network.”

 Kurate Digital Senior Partner Uday Sodhi said that services and advertising would be a big part of Jio's strategy for the low-cost smartphones because a large part of rural India is service-dark. The other areas where JioPhone Next will have an impact are e-commerce, e-governance, and digital payments. “The partnership with Google will help because the tech giant is fairly strong in both the payments and advertising side. Agritech is also something that will benefit from this,” Sodhi stated.

According to Sodhi, the addition of 300-400 million people with high-speed internet on the phone will be a game-changer for the digital industry. “The layers are multiple, so you have a hardware market that opens up for phones. Based on that you have services for e-governance, payments, transactions, OTT, entertainment, communication, etc all of that will open up. It will give a huge fillip to business and commerce, and then advertising will kick in. For advertisers, Jio Phone Next will offer a measurable medium to reach out to rural users. Today, the problem with most of the rural spends is that there is very little measurability,” he added.

The penetration of smartphones to the deepest corners of the country will allow advertisers to target rural consumers in an addressable manner. Regional print and outdoor might get impacted due to the emergence of a digital platform. “FMCG might prefer this medium for reaching rural consumers compared to other unmeasurable mediums like print and outdoor. That will also have an impact on regional print because till now it has been fairly insular and hasn't got impacted by digital. I am assuming that a lot of that might get impacted by digital reaching those markets. News consumption in those markets might become digital-first, irrespective of the platform through which it reaches the audience.”

He also expects audio apps to see a surge in consumption due to the unique nature of the rural market. “Audio apps would be waiting for these next 200-300 million people to come in because video will be that much more difficult to reach due to challenges around quality bandwidth. Audio is a great medium, and it is language neutral since there is no need to read and you can listen to the content. Voice advertising will happen if voice content is there.”

Profit Wheel Co-Founder Vivek Bhargava said that the telcos have the most amount of first party data and in a cookie-less world this will be valuable. “Companies that have first party data are going to build a much more effective advertising engine. Google and Facebooks of the world will obviously gain from a cookie-less world, but the other is telecom providers. Jio will have a significant reach with JioPhone Next, and they will have a lot more first-party data. The APRU from those users will be so low that advertising will become an important component of their overall strategy. In the long-term, even voice will become very important. Theoretically speaking, one can listen to the conversation that a person is having based on AI and serve an ad based on what the conversation is. Contextual ads are beneficial to users.”

According to a source in the advertising industry, Jio is in discussions with media agencies to build advertising solutions. However, the company is not interested in businesses that don't have a certain scale. “Jio is already building solutions with some media agencies, but it is not on a scale that is desirable. The two ecosystems have to merge to build scale. Jio is not even interested in looking at Rs 500-1000 crore kind of business,” the source said, on the condition of anonymity.

The source also said that the JioPhone Next will be a transformational smartphone due to its price point and integrations with Google services. “It will be the cheapest smartphone in the history of the planet. It will be topped up with high bandwidth. It will have holistic voice features which will allow even illiterate people to use it seamlessly in a way we use our smartphones. A lot of Google features will be integrated into the Jio Phone Next. The most significant of them is the visual search engine, Google Lens. They will also add seamless language functionality into this phone. This phone will be heavy on apps like Google Bolo, a speech-based reading-tutor app.”



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