A few months ago, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL)—India’s most valued firm—had a big announcement to make. The veil was lifted off RIL chief Mukesh Ambani’s ambitious project—JioFiber broadband.

Announced at RIL’s August 2019 Annual General Meeting, a public showcase for the company, JioFiber came with a never-before 2X growth promise—to add 36 million subscribers when the total number of wired broadband subscribers in India was 18 million. (We wrote about JioFiber when it was rolled out.)

With 15 million registrations even before it unveiled tariffs in August, Jio sold this dream the way it knows best. With freebies. Free TVs, bluetooth speakers, the works. 

Except, broadband is no easy business. And freebies aren’t a solution. Five months into the commercial launch of JioFiber, the company realises that switching from wireless to wired is no mean feat, as confirmed by various executives who spoke to The Ken. They requested anonymity for various reasons—while some aren’t authorised to speak with the media, others feared losing their jobs. Jio has not responded to a detailed questionnaire sent by The Ken.

“There are not a lot of interested buyers, the sales have come mostly by push from sales guys,” said a Jio executive from Kerala. “There have been a lot of cases where sales guys had to tell sob stories to sell and had to visit a house 10-15 times to push sales.” Jio’s ambitious sales targets are not easy to hit as the company has not shown much aggressiveness when it comes to pricing. JioFiber’s tariff starts at Rs 699 ($9.83) and goes upto Rs 8,000 ($112.5) per month, and the plans do not differ much when you compare it with competitors. 

Many of the 15 million people who signed up early haven’t gotten the service. Some even backed out because they expected a free service like Jio mobile, or because the cable service never reached their homes. 

While the 36 million goal comes without a promised time frame, Jio needs to top up at least 300,000 customers per month to reach anywhere near it in the next decade. Two of the biggest broadband service providers, state-owned BSNL and Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel, took over 15 years to reach their respective subscriber bases of 8.51 million and 2.41 million, respectively. While Jio had an initial cohort of 500,000 customers from its one-year-old free trial run, and added close to 123,000 customers in October 2019, the month of November saw a sharp decline with sales dropping to just 43,000. The sales figures for December and January are not out yet. Meanwhile, in the month of November, Airtel added 7,793 customers, while Vodafone Idea added around 5810 customers. While Jio is clearly outperforming its rivals, their subscriber addition is nowhere close to seeing its Chairman’s vision to come true and justify the huge investment it has made.

AUTHOR

Pranav Balakrishnan

Pranav writes about the business of moving people and things around, i.e, mobility and e-commerce. Over the past two years, he has written about Ola, Tesla, Flipkart, Amazon, and the increasing role played by Reliance Industries in the Indian technology story. Pranav joined The Ken from Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, specialising in business journalism.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at support@the-ken.com with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at info@the-ken.com or follow us on Twitter.