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When Ambani Told Trump Jio Does Not Have A Single Piece Of Chinese Equipment

India has the second largest number of Internet users globally and Chinese mobile and technology firms have made significant inroads into the Indian digital consumption market.

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It was just after 3:30 p.m. on February 25 this year. The most powerful man in the world sat down with a select group of India’s most powerful businessmen. The venue was Roosevelt House at the US embassy in New Delhi. President Donald Trump began by saying he had a “whole big, beautiful speech to give”, but since he had given two, he would do a little question and answer session. “I know many of the people in the room by name and reputation,” he said before going on to speak for a bit.

Among those present was RIL CMD Mukesh Ambani. A few minutes passed before Trump turned to him. Ambani began by welcoming Trump and told him that RIL had invested $7 billion in the US energy sector. Trump listened intently, making brief interjections.

Moving on to telecom, Ambani told Trump about how small and large companies (from the US) had been key partners in transforming India’s telecom sector and the 4G network operated by Jio in the past few years.

The President interjected: “Right. You are doing 4G. Are you going to do 5G too? Ambani replied: “We are going to do 5G.” And that’s when Ambani told Trump something that only a few are aware of: the entire Jio network has never used any Chinese telecom equipment at all.

“We are the only network in the world that doesn’t have a single Chinese component,” he said.

Trump interjected with a mention of China’s Huawei (the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker) and complimented the RIL chairman for staying away from the Chinese. “That’s good”, he said.

A couple of months later, on April 22, Ambani struck a massive investment pact with Facebook, embarking on a series of other stake divestures to giant US and some Gulf investors.

The February exchange with Trump reveals a key tenet of Ambani’s business philosophy. Jio has stayed away from Chinese telecom equipment and funds and will pursue its ambitions of 5G networks without relying on Huawei.

Ambani has built three new mega growth engines in a single decade. These include Reliance Jio with 388 million subscribers in less than four years. Then there is Reliance Retail which had 640 million footfalls last year supplying a diversified product portfolio of groceries, fashion, lifestyle, consumer electronics and connectivity via 11,700-plus stores totalling 28.7 million sq. feet of retail space. And finally, the newly formed Reliance O2C — an entity that comprises the entire oil-to-chemicals business of the group.

India has the second largest number of Internet users globally and Chinese mobile and technology firms have made significant inroads into the Indian digital consumption market. Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent (BAT) are the three giants of the Chinese digital economy. Alibaba runs UC Browser and is the largest investor in Paytm. Tencent has invested in startups like Swiggy and Practo, among others. ByteDance runs TikTok. Search engine Baidu has been scouting for opportunities in India. Add mobile phone maker Xiaomi among others of its ilk and you get a sense of what these firms have and intend to do in the Indian market.

They may just not have reckoned with a force called Mukesh Ambani.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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mukesh ambani jio platform telecom donald trump

Siddharth Zarabi

The author is a Senior Journalist and Macro-Economic Policy Expert.

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