From its Silicon Valley-like campus near Mumbai, Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio telecom carrier is emerging as a winner from changes in the way Indian consumers plug into a digital economy made more urgent by the coronavirus pandemic.
For Indian shoppers who prefer to order online, it is launching a grocery ordering service with Facebook Inc’s popular WhatsApp messaging. For Bollywood fans who would prefer to avoid a crowded theater, it is readying same-day-release on the Jio platform.
Those plans had been in the making for months, but the pandemic has given them a shot in the arm. India’s 10-week lockdown has also led to a surge in demand for data, boosting Jio’s phone and broadband offerings.
And, over the past six weeks, the digital business of Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd , known as Jio Platforms, raised a striking $10 billion from global investors.
The investments, including $5.7 billion from Facebook and money from private equity firms Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, General Atlantic and KKR & Co Inc , value Jio Platforms, where Reliance last year announced it was consolidating its digital offerings, at roughly $65 billion (51.6 billion pounds).
They also put Jio on track toward a goal Ambani described last year: an eventual listing that would mark a milestone for his effort to unite the digital offerings of his sprawling conglomerate, from set-top boxes to e-commerce and home automation.
When Jio set out to launch a set-top box, it tasked a team with analysing – and in some cases replicating – some 100 features of an Apple TV set-top box last year, according to a person close to the project and internal Jio documents seen by Reuters.
“Presentation and listing of menu items should be similar to Apple TV,” one of the documents says, assigning the task a “Priority 1” rating.