MUMBAI: Reliance is positioning itself as a software company, partnering with Microsoftto offer cloud-based solutions to small enterprises, investing in blockchain and internet of things networks, and creating virtual and mixed reality content across education, entertainment and gaming to tap retail customers.
“Today, Jio is already a software company,” Reliance IndustriesNSE 11.18 % chairman Mukesh Ambani told shareholders at the 42nd annual general meeting of the company on Monday. “Jio has over 6,000 software engineers and we are continuing to attract technology talent from across India and the world.”
Reliance has entered into a ten-year partnership with Microsoft. Jio will offer Microsoft solutions to small and medium enterprises at just Rs 1,500 per month as a package, including connectivity. Reliance will also set up data centres that would run Microsoft’s Azure platform.
“Together, we will offer comprehensive technology solutions — from compute and storage to connectivity and productivity — to SMBs everywhere in the country,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaking through a video message at the AGM. The partnership will combine Azure, Azure AI and Office 365 with Jio’s connectivity and digital solutions, he added.
Ambani said up to 80% of the cost of running a startup goes towards cloud and connectivity infrastructure, adding that the Reliance-Microsoft partnership would offer connectivity and cloud infrastructure “free for budding startups”.
For micro, small and medium businesses, a bundle of connectivity, productivity and automation tools is typically priced between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 per month, but Reliance and Microsoft would offer these applications along with connectivity for “one-tenth the cost starting at Rs 1,500 per month”, Ambani said. For enterprises, the company has customised plans with similar benefits, he said.
Analysts said it could spur a revolution in pricing and adoption of cloud infrastructure and applications, comparing the move to the data revolution that Reliance Jio brought about in the telecom sector. “This is the most rock-bottom pricing that one can imagine even for the most elementary cloud services,” said Navin Mishra, senior director, analyst, digital infrastructure, cloud and hyperconvergence, at Gartner. From a cloud perspective India is proposed to be in a $4-5 billion bracket in the next four years, driven by enterprises where SMBs have not yet been present, according to Gartner.
“Pricing has been a key inhibitor for the bottom of the pyramid,” Mishra said. “With this partnership it looks like they are trying to address the disruption of the marketplace with such pricing for most elementary cloud services… The second aspect is a lot of cloud providers struggle with the network piece of applications, especially for India where the SMB universe is huge and we have a vast geographical diversity. Jio has already invested a lot of money into building the network for 4G and disrupting the marketplace with the pricing,” he said.
Ambani on Monday also announced that Jio is setting up a pan-India Edge Computing and Content Distribution network to deliver immersive content to users in areas like entertainment, shopping, gaming and education.
Jio aims to connect one billion IoT (internet of things) devices in India, out of an estimated two billion such devices by 2021. This would present a Rs 20,000-crore-per-year revenue opportunity for the company, he said. Reliance will increase focus on virtual reality content and showcased capabilities of Tesseract, a VR company at the AGM. This creates exciting new possibilities for entertainment, shopping, gaming and most importantly for education, Ambani said.
Delivering immersive content to hundreds of millions of users requires a well-integrated solution spanning connectivity, data storage and real-time computing, he said. Ambani also said Jio would install one of the largest blockchain networks in the world with “tens of thousands of nodes operational on day one” across the country.
Jio is investing in a growing ecosystem of technology startups, he said. Reliance has invested in 14 startups so far.