India’s data revolution might have come about because the internet at the house of India’s richest man apparently “sucked.”
“The idea of Jio was first seeded by my daughter, Isha, in 2011,” Mukesh Ambani said at a conference yesterday. “She was a student at Yale (in the US) and was home for holidays. She wanted to submit some coursework – and she said, ‘Dad, the internet in our house sucks’,” he added. Similar sentiments had reportedly been echoed by her twin brother, Akash Ambani, who at that time had told his father that in the old world, telecom was voice and people made money on calls but in the new world everything is digital.
“Isha and Akash belong to India’s young generation that is far more creative, far more ambitious and far more impatient to become the best in the world. These young Indians convinced me that broadband internet is the defining technology of our age and India cannot be left behind,” he said.
A few years after the conversation, Ambani set into motion a plan that would eventually culminate in the launch of Jio in September 2016. Ambani ploughed in as much as $31 billion (Rs. 2,00,000 crore) into setting up Jio’s infrastructure, and provided free services to users for months. People began switching to Jio connections, and the rest of the telecom industry, spooked by Jio’s moves, slashed rates and tariffs. When Jio was launched, 1 GB of data could cost as much as Rs. 400; now telecom companies provide as much as 60 GB of data for as little as Rs. 149.
This has had a transformative impact on businesses that run over the internet in India — lower data costs have enabled a whole tier of Indians to come online, and they now enjoy videos, educational materials, and games that they previously didn’t have access to. And while doing all this, Jio, incredibly, has managed to make money — less than two years after its launch, Jio reported a net profit of Rs. 504 crore last quarter.
And to think this all started because Ambani’s daughter felt even the best internet services in India — Ambani, being India’s richest man, would’ve presumably had top notch internet at his own house — weren’t quite up to speed with what she was used to in the US. But her complaints of the internet sucking in India have likely been fixed — before Jio’s launch three years ago, India was ranked 155 in mobile broadband data consumption. Today it’s ranked number 1.