Reliance Industries’ chairman Mukesh Ambani has said that the group will invest Rs 2.5 lakh crore in projects related to Digital India, the government’s vision to boost growth of information technology in India, and will set up a network of 1.5 lakh retailers who will sell and service mobile phones and other smart devices.
Most of the investments will be done under the banner of Reliance Jio, the company’s upcoming communications venture.
“Jio is setting up a new nationwide distribution network that will enable over a 150,000 small electronic retailers to sell and service smartphones and internet devices,” Ambani said at the launch of ‘Digital India’.
At present, telecom companies do not retail the devices except for data dongles and basic CDMA phones. Retail of smart devices is done independently in India, unlike in countries like the USA, where it’s the operators who retail the devices as well.
Jio is expected to adopt a more US-like model as it needs to push 4G devices into the market faster than would happen ‘naturally’ to drive uptake for its LTE services.
Jio is also rolling an all IP Next-Generation, wireless broadband infrastructure across all the 29 states in India. “This will be amongst the best in the world,” Ambani said.
It is estimated that Jio has invested around Rs 75,000 cr already in its telecom infrastructure. Jio’s impending entry has already hit stock prices of major telecom companies. Many analysts believe that only one or two of the main telecom companies in India will be able to survive, given the scale of Jio’s plans for India.
Jio is also working with leading device manufacturers to encourage them to make smartphones and internet devices at an affordable price in India.
“We will give them an assured offtake through our retail system,” he said.
RIL already owns a pan-India electronics-store network in the form of Reliance Digital and the newer Reliance Digital Express format.
“We are committed to make necessary investments and strongly partner with central and state governments in the area of E-Governance, Digital Education, Digital Health Care, Smart Cities and Rural Digital Services.
“Finally, we are creating a Jio Digital India Start-Up Fund and entrepreneurship hubs in key cities and towns. Our intent is to provide a platform for young Indians who want to create digital business of the future,” he said.
Ambani said Reliance’s Digital India investments are likely to create employment for over 5 Lakh people.