In the two years and a bit since the official launch of Jio’s telecom services in September 2016, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has created an 800-pound gorilla. A behemoth with multiple businesses spawning from telecom and thriving off it.
With its free voice telephony and dirt-cheap data—which led to a bloody price war in the telecom sector—Jio has managed to acquire a 23.17% market share in terms of number of customers as of November 2018. Jio is behind Vodafone-Idea (35.94%) and Bharti Airtel (29.17%), according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
But the impact of Jio on the telecom sector extends beyond mere market share. It has also meant consolidation. The last two years have seen Vodafone and Idea merge, Aircel and Reliance Communications file for bankruptcy, and Norway-based Telenor exiting India by selling its Indian business to Airtel. There’s also the not-so-small matter of growing piles of debt on the balance sheets of the surviving companies.
Across sectors, Jio is increasingly becoming a fierce competitor. This is particularly evident when it comes to content, where Jio has its hands full with its own video streaming applications JioTV and JioCinema, content production via stakes in production houses Balaji Telefilms and Eros, and a music streaming bet with the merger of JioMusic and US-based Saavn to form JioSaavn. All of this in addition to media company TV18—a subsidiary of RIL-owned Network18—which holds a 51% stake in Viacom18 (a joint venture with the global media conglomerate Viacom). Viacom18 runs Voot, a video streaming platform, in addition to a host of TV channels.
In 2018, Reliance’s two investments in cable and broadband companies—Den Networks and Hathway—took the cable distribution and direct-to-home (DTH) space by surprise. The move is expected to prove detrimental to the DTH industry.
Reliance’s most recent bet, Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, will also be expanded via Jio’s customer sales and service touch points. On the back of its PoS business, Jio can expand two of its other businesses—its JioMoney wallet and its Jio Payments Bank—which have largely remained insignificant so far. The PoS play is also likely to be Jio’s wedge into the offline retail market as well as a hyperlocal delivery service, though the latter will happen much further down the road.
Over the last two years, Jio has upped its investments across sectors, especially with regard to content and cable distribution. The plan with the latter is to kick-start Reliance’s high-speed wired broadband proposition, Jio GigaFiber. In addition, Reliance has left no stone unturned in its quest to spread its base. For instance, Jio has bet on both edtech and healthcare, where it invested $180 million in EmBibe and $1.4 million in KareXpert, respectively.