In conversation with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella at the Future Decoded CEO Summit on Monday, Ambani said India is all set to become a premier digital society.
India has a mobile network that is better or at par with any country in the world and is all set to become a “premier digital society”, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani said.
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In conversation with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella at the Future Decoded CEO Summit on Monday, Ambani said the big change driving this transformation is the deepening of mobile networks that are working at a much faster pace than before.
"It all kick-started in 2014 when PM gave us the vision of Digital India... 380 million people have migrated to Jio's 4G technology," he said. Pre-Jio, the data speed was 256 kbps; and post-Jio, it is 21 Mbps, he pointed out.
Highlighting India’s entrepreneurial spirit, Ambani said every small entrepreneur in India can become a Dhirubhai or a Bill Gates as the entrepreneurial talent in India is huge.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Satya Nadella: Tell us about your idea of digital India.
Mukesh Ambani: What I admire and what I learn in terms of saying that if in your leadership style what you have demonstrated that if you have empathy, if you rely on partnerships and build trusts and relationships and if you think about every mistake as a learning opportunity and if you believe that it is not products or profits but people and their continuous reinvention of capability, that is the strength of the organisation - all of us in India Inc are inspired. Personally, I am very committed and privileged that you have committed to India on a scale that I never anticipated that a multinational will and we are very excited about the partnership that Jio and Microsoft will have. I think that will be – as we look at this decade - a defining partnership. Thank you for your commitment to India.
As we are speaking, US President Donald Trump has arrived in Ahmedabad. The India that he will see in 2020 is very different from the India that either President Jimmy Carter saw or President Bill Clinton saw when he came or even President Barack Obama. We are having millions of people on the street, each one of them having their own personal experiences with their phones and the network strong enough. I can easily say that the mobile networks in India now are better or at par with anybody else in the world. That is the big change. When he reaches the stadium, and you talked about the stadium, the infrastructure in that stadium in terms of digital is better than any other place in the world. So, that is the India as we start in 2020.
If you then even think about your own journey and think about 1992 when you joined Microsoft, India was a $300 billion economy and today India is $3 trillion. Fundamentally this whole progress in a certain way has happened on the back of technology. In the early days, it was Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, and all of them who drove technology in India, and that really kick-started all the economic reforms, kick-started this whole growth paradigm.
It was supercharged in 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave us the vision of Digital India. If you then see what followed and I was again privileged to play a very small role in it with the launch of Jio. Just to share with you and the audience, pre-Jio, we had 256 kbps which we called broadband in India and post-Jio we now have 21mbps on mobile data as the average speed available in every single village in India. Pre-Jio, the price of data in this country was between Rs 300 and Rs 500 and for the poorest of poor who used 2G, the price was as high as Rs 10,000 a GB. Post-Jio, the price is between Rs 12 and Rs 14 a GB.
The usage and a lot of what Jio has achieved in the last three years is 38 crore people, 380 million customers have migrated to this 4G technology and that tells you the enthusiasm in the youth of India, the enthusiasm in consumption in India and the enthusiasm even in my mother who is 85-years old and the amount of time she spends. So, in your language, she has the greatest tech intensity. So, I think that is really what has happened. So, consumption has also gone up and this is really become a peoples’ movement.
When you talk about the financial sector, we just introduced UPI and with digitisation, in December we had a 100 percent growth and total UPI transactions in this country digitally were Rs 2 lakh crore. So, what has happened is that because we have got infrastructure, we are accelerating and we are just at the beginning of this whole journey.
That is one of the things I was going to ask you because in some sense all of what you have done in laying out the network capability, you talked about what that has led to these people being empowered, consuming more, using more and you have the best rates and connectivity today. Now you also have an ambition to say what can you do for small businesses, medium businesses, because you are now even saying - how do we, in fact, our partnership in some senses is about how do take what I talked about, combine it with your domain expertise, your technology and completely change even the landscape or broad sectoral change?
Let me again start with saying that Reliance was founded as a startup even before startups became - like my father founded Reliance with a table and a chair and Rs 1,000, it was five decades ago. It then became micro-industry, then it became a small industry, medium - today you can consider it large. I have been again very fortunate in terms of knowing Steve and Bill from my Stanford days so it was even before Microsoft was founded, Steve was being recruited by Bill and I have seen the growth of Microsoft since then.
There must have been something in the air, both of you dropped out?
Why I am saying this is fundamentally to just drive the point that every small business and entrepreneur has the potential in India to become a Dhirubhai Ambani or Bill Gates and that is the power - that is what differentiates India from the rest of the World. The entrepreneurial power that we have at the grass-roots is enormous and what this decade will offer and if we even see the opening balance of small, medium and micro enterprises, we have to realise that for India, they really provide 70 percent even without any enablement - they provide 70 percent of India’s employment. They drive 40 percent of India’s exports and they are critical to all the economic activity that we see and they have done this again with zero technical enablement and adoption. Our opportunity between Jio and Microsoft is to really give them full service to make sure that they are fully enabled with the tools sets, the data sets because a mind-set exists to really propel India forward and that is even a bigger opportunity then the consumer piece that we have seen in the last few years.
You referenced how your father 5 decades ago got started with a dream and a hope of what is possible and created what is today one of the most amazing stories in business. When you now lead this organisation, look out – what drives you, what inspires you, what is it that you would like to see happen?
I think that the opportunity that we have for India is the opportunity to become the premier digital society in the world. I think with all the components that are coming in place, as we go and march forward, I have no doubt in my mind that we will be among the top three economies in the world. Twenty years ago we were saying where India will be. Now I think if you talk to anybody there is no doubt in anybody’s mind, we can argue about whether it will happen in 5 or 10 years but it’s going to happen and we will be in the top 3 economies in the world.
When that happens, our opportunity is - will we be the most technologically enabled society, will we be having all our development enabled by all the tools of technology, can we really be a pacesetter in terms of using all technology and as our prime minister says, can we then use technology for businesses so that they have ease of doing business, but we then in partnership deliver ease of living for every citizen of India and build a society that is equal, has ethics and gives equal opportunity to empower everybody to find their potential and that in the coming 2 decades is that opportunity that India has. What next generations of India will see is a very different India than what you and I have grown up and I think all of us should be working towards that. Our own partnership between Jio and Microsoft will work with businesses from startups to micro-enterprises to merchants and shopkeepers to large enterprises in partnership to drive and enable and build this new India.
In fact, one thing that Akash wants is gaming. I think in the next decade you may become a gamer?
That is difficult, Akash is very excited in terms of like gaming doesn’t really exist in India and with everything that we are doing in xCloud and our broadband connectivity, I think there is huge potential. For some of us who don’t know what gaming is - it is very hard to imagine that gaming will be bigger than music, movies and TV shows all put together, but we will see.
Disclosure: RIL, the promoter of Reliance Jio, also controls Network18, the parent company of CNBCTV18.com.
First Published: IST