Indias richest man Mukesh Ambani announced the launch of a 4G-enabled feature phone priced at “effective” zero that bundles life-long free voice calls with dirt cheap data in a bid to woo 50 crore low-income users to his 10-month old Jio.
Ambanis oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries is focusing on digital business, together with core refining and petrochemical business.
Jio stormed into the highly competitive telecom sector last September with a six-month promotional offer of free voice and data, which has helped it mobilise 125 million users, and is now looking to hit it big with a new phone.
Addressing the annual meeting of shareholders of RIL, the parent of Jio, Chairman Ambani said the handset, named JioPhone, will have “an effective price of Rs 0” as buyers will be able to get the device for a one-time refundable security deposit of Rs 1,500.
The deposit will be refunded after 36 months on return of the phone.
Voice calling will be free for life while unlimited data packs will cost Rs 153 a month on the device, he added.
JioPhone will be available for user testing in beta form from August 15 and for pre-booking from August 24. “JioPhone will be physically available to those who have pre-booked, on a first come first serve basis, September onwards,” Ambani said.
The company will make available 5 million phones every week and manufacture all JioPhones in India from “last quarter of this year”, he said indicating that the phones are made by a vendor outside the country.
Ambani also used the 40th AGM to introduce his twin children — Akash and Isha — who were called on to the stage to present features of the phone. The 25-year-old twins also did a live demo of the phones.
Ambanis wife Nita, already on board of RIL, was present on the dais while mother Kokilaben and younger son Anant sat in the front row.
“Reliance@50 will aspire to become — and will certainly become — one among the top 50 companies in the world,” he said in the one-and-half hour speech that was punctuated with applause and whistling by those present.
“I am confident that Reliances own growth over the next 10 years and our contribution to the Indian economy will surpass what it has achieved in the past 40 years,” he said.
RILs energy and material businesses have potential to more than double pre-tax profit to Rs 1,00,000 crore within the next few years, he claimed.
A short movie on the group’s founder and Mukesh’s father Dhirubhai Ambani was played mid-way through the speech. At the end of the film, Ambani announced that while the shareholders were watching the film, the board decided to issue one bonus share for every share held — the first such issue after 12 years — and a dividend of Rs 13 a share.
From a textiles company, RIL has grown into energy, materials, consumer and digital businesses. The annual general meeting marked the 40th anniversary since its IPO.