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Say What You May, Jio Has Merely Played Smart

With PM Modi as the brand’s leading face and product offers that many are struggling to make business sense of, Reliance Jio asserts that it is important for more reasons than just impact on industry

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The Reliance Jio-Modi ad has become a bone of contention and led to a political warfare of sorts. But before the controversy broke out, Reliance Jio was successful in turning the world’s largest democracy’s Prime Minister into a brand ambassador of one of its most ambitious, and if popular media is to be quoted, most ‘audacious’ projects. And that is one hell of a way to begin. Even before people woke up on launch day, including competition, social platforms were already buzzing with the controversy. Thanks to that, now even the loyalists of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea who were not interested in Reliance Jio, know all the company and its offers.

Reliance Jio was not just another telecom launch.

Yes, there are technically two kinds of campaigns — one that aligns with Digital India and hence features PM Modi in the launch ads, and another is Reliance Jio’s ads. And yes, the consumer is not a fool and will know the difference. However, if one of Ambani’s goals is indeed to reach 100 million customers in the shortest time possible, much of this will come from the masses. This audience is not looking at the finer differences — it has been made an offer it is unlikely to refuse, and the associated image of the PM is only a plus.

That aside, there is much about Reliance Jio that begs one’s attention. Its distinction comes not only in the product but its thought process too. Ambani’s comment, “Jio is not really a telecom company, but a tech company”, is an indicator of the broader picture the company intends to focus on. For years now, telecom companies have been losing revenues to messaging platforms and data calling including video calls. The trend will catch up faster in India, especially given the efforts of so many companies, and the government itself, in driving the proliferation and availability of Internet connectivity in India. With its free voice calls and cheap data offers, Reliance Jio has merely capitalised on a key and long-standing industry insight.

The change is coming. Reliance Jio’s approach has been to use it in its favour. The ‘how’ behind it, however, is not as simple. Reliance Jio’s investors are questioning if they would lose money. Although Ambani assures that the company will generate “healthy returns on capital”.

Competing companies are not thrilled with what they are up against. News headlines indicate that other telecom operators are gunning for changes and asking for terms that will keep the industry competitive and profitable for all. It is still a wait-and-watch on whether Reliance Jio will have to change its ways, and whether this high power move will be worth it. But irrespective of the scenario, from a marketing standpoint, Reliance Jio literally broke clutter. The controversy that followed has only helped it — no one missed the ad, the issue kept alive for long, and so far there is no campaign withdrawal either.

There is a more important, broader takeaway here. Some very big names — Reliance Jio is the latest one on the list — are now working to make India one of the top 10 connected countries in the world. Given the sheer numbers alone, the impact it will have on entrepreneurs, local and global businesses and the new kinds of opportunities that it will open up are mind boggling. The possibilities are immense — India will not only stay the course to be one of the most powerful consumer markets but also play home to tech innovations. In the middle of all the chaos Reliance Jio has created, there is a clear sign of upcoming changes.