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The Battle Has Begun

Mukesh Ambani is a successful man who aspires to be super successful. He wants to be the new czar — data czar if I may say so, or a services czar, if you so prefer

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“Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk, and to act,” said Maxwell Maltz.

Mukesh Ambani is a successful man who aspires to be super successful. He wants to be the new czar — data czar if I may say so, or a services czar, if you so prefer. Reliance Jio’s launch will make a structural impact on the telecom industry, which will play out over the next few months and years. The trinity of telecom, media and technology (TMT) has really converged and showed up as Jio. The holy grail of convergence, where advertising is Madison Avenue, entertainment content is Hollywood and technology is Silicon Valley, is at last happening in India.

Ten years ago, I had predicted that telecom, content and technology companies would all come together. If Jio succeeds, it will impact more industries than just telecommunications. It will impact media, entertainment — content delivery in education and every kind of service conceivable. LIFI is taking over the world. Will Jio be the oxygen that drives the services ecosystem?

The impact of Jio is likely to surpass telecom and extend to other industries too. The revolutionary experience of home networking, for instance, creates new markets. Home networking is the major battlefield for “network convergence of telecom, TV and the Internet”. The “bi-direction and high bandwidth” features of the telecom network have an advantage in network convergence and provide strategic opportunities for operators to surpass telecom and enter new industries.

The Jio service debuted on September 5. Easy access to content at speeds that we had only dreamt of before is bound to lead to an information overload that will impact society. I am reminded of singer Ruben Blades, who once said, “I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.”

Both markets and consumers took note of the Jio launch and diverse viewpoints emerged on whether the gamble would pay off or not. From the perspective of a classical market entry strategy, what is so new about pricing being used by a new entrant to access a market? I am sure Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Airtel, and Idea and every other player in the market had factored in such a scenario in their ‘what if’ analyses — but now, the battle has begun.

The critical also say that Airtel is a brand and a service that customers trust, while Reliance never did build a consumer brand. But consumers will benefit just the way they did in the e-commerce wars. The launch of Jio will impact smaller telcos like Aircel and R-Com rather than the Airtels in the market.

This issue’s cover package has been put together by deputy editor Sutanu Guru, senior editor Ashish Sinha and senior associate editor Clifford Alvarez. It also carries a guest column by Member of Parliament and activist Rajeev Chandrasekhar and a follow-up on the organic economy by independent journalist Vidhu Khanna.

In this issue, deputy editor Raghu Mohan chats with NCR Corporation India managing director Navroze Dastur on whether or not banks had been able to leverage on the ATM network. Senior associate editor C.H. Unnikrishnan predicts an e-tail and retail convergence within the Future Group and Adobe South Asia managing director Kulmeet Bawa tells associate editor Ayushman Baruah that India is one of the most strategic markets for the company globally. Happy reading.