Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s group on Monday announced an internet-enabled phone at an entry price of Rs999 ($12) as the oil-to-retail conglomerate seeks to tap a wider section of India’s growing consumer market.
India’s No. 1 wireless carrier Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd will start beta trials for the first one million ‘Jio Bharat’ phones from July 7, according to a statement by the telecommunications unit of Reliance Industries Ltd. The phones will be offered with unlimited voice calls and 14 GB of data for Rs123 a month.
The launch of a cheap internet-enabled phone is another disruptive move by Ambani, who deployed a similar cut-throat strategy when he entered the retail business in 2006 and telecom in 2016, elbowing out competition until Reliance emerged as the market leader in both sectors.
Akash Ambani, chairman at Reliance Jio, said in the statement that there are 250 million mobile phone users in India who remain “trapped” in the 2G era, unable to tap into basic features of the internet at a time when the world is adopting 5G technology. The phone is also expected to boost Reliance’s plans to make a push into entertainment with its streaming service.
Reliance Jio plans to invest $25 billion to roll out 5G services across India by December 2023.