Jio Bharat Feature Phone: Ambani’s Strategic Brilliance for Billions

Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio launched Jio Bharat 4G phone at just Rs 999. But what drove Reliance to launch a feature phone in the era of smartphones and 5G?

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In the fast-paced world of smartphones and cutting-edge technology, India has emerged as the second-largest smartphone market, with a staggering 800 million users. The country’s smartphone user base is expected to skyrocket in the next two years as more feature phone users upgrade to smartphones in pursuit of the 5G revolution. While global smartphone brands are fiercely competing for a slice of this growing market, Mukesh Ambani, India’s wealthiest person, has taken a surprising turn. Instead of joining the flashy smartphone race, Ambani has unveiled Reliance Jio’s latest offering, the Jio Bharat feature phone, aiming to revolutionize the Indian market in a unique way.

Let’s talk about the features and specs of this newly launched Jio Bharat phone before we dig deeper into the reasons behind Reliance’s decision to introduce a feature phone in 2023, despite the widespread adoption of 5G smartphones across India.

Reliance Jio Bharat Phone: Price, Features and More

Reliance Jio introduced the Jio Bharat 4G Phone, priced at just ₹999, making it the most affordable internet-enabled feature phone available. What sets it apart is its cheapest monthly plan of ₹123, which offers unlimited voice calls and a generous 14 GB of data. This plan is 30% cheaper and provides seven times more data compared to other feature phone offerings from different operators.

For those looking for a cost-effective long-term plan, Jio offers an annual plan priced at ₹1,234, including unlimited voice calls and a whopping 168 GB of data (0.5 GB per day). This plan is approximately 25% cheaper than the annual plans offered by other operators, which typically cost ₹1,799 and provide 24 GB of data for voice calls.

What’s even more intriguing is that the Jio Bharat phone comes with 4G internet connectivity, enabling users to enjoy fast data speeds. Additionally, it supports UPI payments through JioPay and offers access to apps like JioCinema and JioSaavn. This makes it an enticing option for individuals who prefer a simpler, more straightforward mobile phone experience, without the complexities of touchscreen smartphones.

The beta trial for the first 1 million Jio Bharat phones is set to begin on July 7, 2023. The trial will be conducted in 6,500 tehsils across the country, as per the release, ensuring a wide reach and accessibility to users from various regions.

In addition to the Jio Bharat 4G Phone, Reliance has introduced the Jio Bharat platform, which harnesses the capabilities of both devices and network infrastructure to provide internet-enabled services on entry-level phones. This platform aims to bridge the digital divide and extend the benefits of connectivity to users who may not have access to high-end smartphones.

Notably, apart from Reliance Retail, other phone brands, starting with Karbonn, will also adopt the ‘Jio Bharat platform’ to develop ‘Jio Bharat phones’.

Amidst India’s prominent role in the 5G revolution and the remarkable Jio True 5G network, Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited’s decision to introduce a feature phone raises the question: What prompted this move? Let’s delve into the reasons behind Reliance’s foray into the feature phone market while the country is embracing cutting-edge 5G technology.

Reliance’s Commitment to the Feature Phone Market

India, with its staggering population of approximately 1.5 billion, has emerged as the most populous country globally. It is also experiencing rapid growth in various sectors, including smartphones, e-commerce, retail, logistics, and technology. However, despite this growth, there is still a significant portion of the population that continues to rely on feature phones, remaining connected to 2G and 3G networks rather than transitioning to the faster 4G and 5G technologies.

According to TRAI data, India has around 1.14 billion mobile phone users, making it the second-largest mobile market globally. Among these users, approximately 400 million (35%) are still using feature phones. Within this group, 250 million (21.9%) are trapped in the 2G era, lacking internet access. In a time when technology access is essential for improving livelihoods and economic well-being, this digital disparity has become more pronounced. Other telecom operators have significantly increased the prices for basic voice services, making it even more challenging for feature phone users to stay connected.

The cost for a 30-day period, which used to be ₹99, has now risen to ₹199. This segment of users is often exploited by incumbent operators, as they are unable to afford smartphones and face limitations in accessing digital services.

Therefore, Reliance Jio has launched the Jio Bharat feature phone with the intention of capitalizing on this untapped market and furthering the vision of achieving a ‘2G Mukt Bharat’ (an India free from 2G technology). The primary objective is to empower every Indian, especially those who cannot afford smartphones, by providing them with digital services. This initiative marks the beginning of digital freedom for the 250 million feature phone users in India and aims to bridge the digital divide.

In the current era, where India leads the 5G revolution with the revolutionary Jio True 5G network, a portion of the population is still unable to fully leverage the advantages of digital technology.

Now let’s understand how much Reliance will make from this Jio Bharat 4G phone with its cheapest plan of ₹123 per month!

Revenue Potential of Reliance’s Jio Bharat Phone

Mukesh Ambani’s plan to launch the Jio Bharat feature phone with its enticing ₹123 per month plan is undoubtedly a masterstroke. This well-thought-out business strategy not only aims to capture the attention of millions of feature phone users in India but also holds the potential to generate billions in revenue annually. It’s a game-changing move that could reshape the telecom industry landscape.

There are still approximately 400 million (that’s 40 crores!) mobile users in India that are glued to feature phones. Now, if Reliance can successfully capture just 25% of this enormous market, it translates to a jaw-dropping 100 million users in their grasp. This doesn’t seem tough for a company like Reliance, considering its impressive track record and widespread presence across various sectors, from retail to telecom. The 100 million acquired users would generate a mind-boggling ₹1230 crores (₹12.3 billion) of recurring revenue for Reliance every single month. Yes, you read that right—every month!

Despite fierce competition from established players like Airtel Bharti, BSNL, Vodafone, and Idea, Reliance Jio has emerged as the undisputed king in the wireless telecom market, with a 37.9% share and a record-breaking 433.27 million mobile subscribers as of April 2023. Reliance Jio cementing its dominant position within a record time is a testament to its reach, influence, marketing and penetration capabilities. Given the limited competition in India’s feature phone market, Reliance Jio’s potential to acquire over 100 million users or even more for its Jio Bharat phone appears highly feasible.

This mind-boggling financial impact showcases the sheer genius behind Mukesh Ambani’s plan and the irresistible allure of the Jio Bharat phone’s pocket-friendly offering. By focusing on feature phone users, Reliance is not only catering to an underserved segment but also addressing the needs of millions of Indians who may not have access to fancy smartphones.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Reliance’s visionary approach and the irresistible price point of the Jio Bharat feature phone solidify its position as a true industry leader. It’s not just about making money; it’s about transforming lives and driving digital inclusion on a massive scale.

Game-Changer in Digital Payments

This is not the first time when Reliance Jio launched a 4G feature phone in India. Reliance Jio entered India’s feature phone market in 2017 by launching its first 4G-enabled feature phone named JioPhone at just ₹500. The success of the JioPhone prompted Reliance Jio to continue expanding its feature phone lineup and introducing new models with enhanced features and capabilities. The subsequent launches, including the JioPhone 2 and JioPhone Next, further solidified Reliance’s presence in the feature phone market.

What distinguishes the newly launched Jio Bharat 4G phone from its predecessors? It is the integration of UPI in the Jio Bharat feature phone that will propel Reliance’s influence in digital payments. There are many feature phones available in the market which offer 4G technology, but only a few have integrated UPI (Unified Payments Interface) functionality on their phones.

Currently, Walmart-owned PhonePe, Google Pay, and Paytm have their stronghold over India’s UPI payments landscape, collectively processing a remarkable 94% of all transactions. In May 2023, the volume of UPI transactions reached an impressive 9.42 billion, amounting to a staggering value of ₹14.89 trillion. This highlights the significant growth and widespread adoption of UPI as a popular digital payment method in India. However, it’s important to note that there is still a significant portion of the population who are yet to make their first UPI payment. This represents a vast untapped market of mobile users who have the potential to embrace the convenience and benefits of digital payments.

The launch of the Jio Bharat phone with built-in UPI functionality by Reliance Jio is a strategic move that targets an untapped market of feature phone users who are yet to adopt digital payments.

In August 2020, Reliance Jio started testing Jio-Pay, a UPI-enabled payment service, specifically for selected Jio phone users and subscribers. This allowed Jio customers to make digital payments conveniently and securely using UPI. In January 2022, they took it a step further by partnering with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to introduce autopay facilities for millions of UPI and Jio users. This integration with the unique e-mandate feature of UPI autopay allows Jio customers to set standing instructions on the MyJio app.

By combining the affordability and accessibility of the Jio Bharat phone with built-in UPI functionality, Reliance Jio aims to drive the adoption of digital payments among feature phone users. This strategic move not only empowers individuals with convenient payment options but also contributes to the larger vision of a digital and cashless India.

With the introduction of the new Jio Bharat phone, Reliance Jio takes another significant step towards ensuring that every person in the country can enjoy the advantages of a digital society. Reliance Jio’s relentless pursuit of digital empowerment continues to reshape the technological landscape, making technology accessible to all and driving inclusive growth across India.



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