Jio driving digital shifts

Jio driving digital shifts in the economy

by | Jul 20, 2020 | Deal, Technology, Telecom

Jio’s aggressive push to translate itself into a digital services behemoth can further redefine India’s already transforming economy.
Share to lead the transformation

For most of the companies, the past few months have been extremely challenging due to the unprecedented breakdown in economic activities, resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. While enterprises are trying to deal with matters such as changing consumer behaviors, work-from-home setups, and psychological effects of the pandemic on their employees, with telcos like Jio driving digital shifts in the economy.

While this sudden outbreak has impacted many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses to the extent that they had to close their shops, for companies like Jio Platforms, it has accelerated growth, led by a new surge in opportunities.

A gold rush for Jio Platforms

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Jio Platforms, the telecoms and digital arm of the Indian multinational Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has raised over Rs 15.2 billion (Rs. 1,52,056 crore) by attracting investments in 13 companies.

From the likes of Facebook, Google, Qualcomm, and Intel to General Atlantic and Mubadala, leading tech- and private-equity giants seem to yearning to retain some stake in the world’s most treasured digital player of the moment.

This has not only helped company Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) to pare a literal mountain of debt, but also set it on a clear path of turning RJio into a digital products and services behemoth of a global scale.

RJio stands to leverage a plethora of new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, cloud and edge computing, block chain, analytics, and augmented and mixed reality to develop solutions and services that could reshape the user experience for its growing base of customers.

On path to becoming a digital multinational

Amidst the global downturn and massive growth in internet consumption due to the pandemic-enforced work-from-home environment, the recent investments have given Jio a strategic leapfrog.

With most of the population expected to stay indoors even after the lockdown is gradually phased out, the market will need innovations and digital products that could meet customers need at their convenience. Jio Platforms has clearly realized this early on.

Its telecom unit, Jio Infocomm, has already surged past the competition by providing quality services at surprisingly low costs. Now, the company is strategically poised to enter new digital domains by leveraging partnerships.

In this context, the getting together of Reliance Jio (with around 400 million telecom subscribers) and Facebook (with around 300 million Indian users) is specifically important and will help Jio drive growth by potentially catering to a largely dispersed SMB sector of India. (See: Will FB–Jio deal create magic?).

Leveraging the potential of Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger service, the company has already begun to bring local vendors, independent hawkers, and small ration stores to its Jio Mart platform, for delivering online groceries across 200 cities and towns in India. Its online delivery services are well-backed by Reliance Retail, which is country’s largest retailer in terms of revenue.

According to company sources, Jio has already prepared a roadmap to flesh out its e-commerce services beyond the groceries and is likely to offer a range of merchandise and solutions, competing directly with the likes of Amazon in future.

Mass market for niche consumer tech?

A very significant element of Jio’s recent intents is its focus to become a tech-solutions company.

Besides expanding its offerings as an e-commerce service provider, Jio is also looking at developing cutting-edge next-generation solutions to facilitate the surge in the use of video-based collaborative technologies. In its recently concluded AGM, RIL announced several new initiatives to accomplish its refreshed agenda.

By partnering with Google, for instance, Jio plans to increase the reach of digitization across the length and breadth of India, beyond the current 500+ million Internet users in the country. Jio has also entered into a collaboration with Google to develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store.

Another interesting announcement that caught everyone’s attention was the company’s showcasing of a prototype virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) headset, called Jio Glass at its recent annual general meeting. While the company has refrained from sharing details around its market launch or pricing, it said that the device would work with over 25 applications and connect to the internet via a smartphone cable. Once available to the masses, Jio Glass can be a turning point for India’s video-conferencing market and give users more power to collaborate and connect virtually.

India’s education and health sector are likely to be the biggest gainers of the technology as it will enable schools and medical institutes showcase real time projections through various 3D models. Much will be dependent on the pricing of the product as both VR and MR products have so far remained restricted to niche markets.

A gear-making venture in the making

Reliance has also surprised the telecom gear makers by announcing the development of a made-in-India 5G solution to help global service providers roll out advanced 5G infrastructure. The solution is expected to be ready for field deployments next year.

This is a striking development as it will not only help Jio launch 5G services at a significantly lower cost but also endanger the existence of already pressured companies such as Huawei.

RIL hasn’t yet disclosed the roadmap or its vision to develop 5G solutions. However, 5G gear making may not be a cakewalk, considering the fact that players like Huawei are well-ahead in their tech journeys and Jio will need to do a lot of catching up.

At the same time, Reliance is also understood to be forging partnerships to develop other future technologies such as connected cars, drones, and smart homes.

There is no doubt that Reliance Jio is sitting on a unique hotbed of opportunities. The multiple technology partnerships that it has forged, along with its massive domestic telecom subscriber base, create a formidable combination that bodes well.

However, to prove its mettle globally and conquer new markets, the company will need to test different strategies, diversify its product mix, and move up the value chain.

Table: A quick glance at Jio Platforms investors

Investor Stake (%) Funding (in Rs crore)
     
Facebook 9.90 43,573.62
Google 7.7 33,737
Vista Equity 2.30 11,367
KKR 2.30 11,367
Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia 2.30 11,367
Silver Lake Partners 2.08 10,202.55
Mubadala 1.85 9,093.60
General Atlantic 1.34 6,598.38
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority 1.16 5,683.50
TPG 0.93 4,546.80
L Catterton 0.39 1,894.50
Intel Capital 0.39 1,894.50
Qualcomm 0.15 730
  32.79 152,055

 Source: RIL, BM Nxt

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

ICICI Prudential extends coverage of conversational AI Ligo

ICICI Prudential extends coverage of conversational AI Ligo

Private-sector insurer ICICI Prudential Life has extended the availability of its conversational artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ‘Ligo’ on Google Assistant to address customer queries. Its customers will need to activate Google Assistant on their Android smartphones and speak out their policy number or registered phone number to get various details about their policy.

“It is as simple as asking Google for directions or traffic. In this ever-evolving digital world where speed, efficiency, and convenience are continually being enhanced, there has been rapid adoption of AI-powered voice assistants by individuals owing to personalized and immediate experiences being provided,” said ICICI in a statement.

ICICI Prudential introduced conversational AI-based Ligo chatbot on its website and mobile app in 2018. ICICI claims to have addressed around two million queries through this chatbot with 91% accuracy.

“At ICICI Prudential Life, all our innovations hinge around customer-centricity. Sometime back, we embarked on our hyper-personalization journey built on the pillars of 3 Vs. – Video, Voice, and Vernacular. Catering to the evolving needs of our customers, we have enabled our customer service voice bot LiGo on ‘Google Assistant,’ making it accessible on all platforms and devices it is available on,” said NS Kannan, Managing Director and CEO, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance in the statement.

In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) era, it has become critical for banking and insurance companies to create a differentiated strategy for the convenience of their customers. Tools such as conversational AI Ligo are a technological means to help the sector drive several of these new-age innovations. (See: AI in banking now geared for a takeoff )

Leveraging technology to drive exceptional experience

Since its debut in 2001, ICICI Prudential has been taking major steps to leverage the potential of new-age technologies to further provide a more personalized experience to its customers. On many occasions, the company has indicated its inclination to invest aggressively in digital platforms to deliver superior experience and improve its customer base.

In its performance update for FY2020, ICICI Prudential has mentioned focusing extensively on modern-day technologies in the current fiscal to improve service offerings. It also plans to significantly reduce conventional channels with end-to-end digital solutions for its business activities.

ICICI Prudential was one of the first life insurers to get WhatsApp business verified account, which helped it drive 1.39 million transactions until April 2020. The company has also reportedly been toying up with the idea of using Blockchain technology for quick and error-free claim settlement. It is putting extensive focus on analytics, automation, and machine learning-based technologies to deliver uninterrupted services, including claims, during the COVID-19.

“ICICI Prudential has introduced a bouquet of digital enablers to address every requirement of a customer during the policy lifecycle – from onboarding to servicing the needs of the customers. For instance, customers can use the company’s digital enablers to transact online and each of the digital enablers, i.e. WhatsApp, the Company website, mobile app and Chatbot LiGo are almost equivalent to a virtual branch,” the company says.

Promoted by the ICICI Bank Limited and Prudential Corporation Holdings, ICICI Prudential has consistently been a leading player in the Indian life insurance sector. Its Assets Under Management (AUM) as on 30 June 2020 stood at ₹ 1,700.06 billion.

New CII forum formed to help build an AI ecosystem

New CII forum formed to help build an AI ecosystem

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has launched a new forum on artificial intelligence (AI) to help India develop a much-needed AI ecosystem to drive new opportunities and growth.

The CII AI Forum will focus on developing a robust AI ecosystem in India by developing awareness at scale and strengthening capabilities by skilling/reskilling the workforce for the future, CII said. The sectors prioritized for this year are banking and financial services industries (BFSI), retail, social (healthcare), and manufacturing (automotive).

The forum further aims at collaborating with the Indian government, to help shape conducive policies and a regulatory regime, encourage partnerships in research and development, and facilitate AI-based solution pilots in the priority sectors.

CII said that the forum would be chaired by Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India/South Asia

“As the economy moves into the recovery and revival phase, the transformational potential of responsible AI-driven solutions can be used to fuel India’s growth story in a big way. CII AI Forum will look at initiatives to spur local innovations. This will make AI adoption a reality and further the national agenda of Digital India and Make in India for India and the world. More importantly, the forum will work on policies to embed trust and transparency into AI applications and processes, a critical step in realizing the true promise of the technology for business, society, and the world,” said Sandip Patel in a press statement.

India’s focus on AI has been steadily growing, and the government think tank is consistently working to leverage technology for the country’s economic growth. As part of its efforts, India has recently launched a National Artificial Intelligence Portal (http://www.ai.gov.in) to promote and showcase the local AI-related advancements.

This portal is a one-stop digital platform for AI-related developments in India, featuring resources such as articles, startups, investment funds in AI, resources, companies, and educational institutions related to AI in India.

The website has been developed by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) in consultation with the National e-Governance Division of the Ministry of Electronics and Communications Technology (MeitY). (See: India gears up for AI leap in post-Covid-19 era)

Chandresh Dedhia, Head – IT, Ascent Health

Chandresh Dedhia, Head – IT, Ascent Health

In Focus

Chandresh Dedhia

Head of Information Technology
Ascent Health

There is a strong emphasis on touchless behavior and hence on AI-based touchless technologies.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has persisted, businesses have responded with due precautionary measures, while making a swift transition from the traditional physical work environment to an virtual work ecosystem as much as possible. For a majority of enterprises, the remote-working model was implemented almost overnight and turned out to be a massive experiment during the first phase of lockdown. 

In India, the work-from-home (WFH), was earlier mostly limited to privileged users. However, the pandemic introduced a significant and extraordinary change. Now, many companies have extended the complete WFH policy for their employees until June 2021. Today, all eyes are on the technology leaders who have assumed an enormous responsibility to devise and execute a differentiated tech strategy to embrace this new normal as part of a process.

In a recent interaction with Jatinder Singh of Better World, Chandresh Dedhia, Head of Information Technology, Ascent Health, outlines the top technology trends and challenges that the businesses are facing in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. He also shares some of the best practices and technology implementations that could lead enterprises to deliver an exceptional customer experience with minimal disruption. Excerpts.

On the new normal and learnings
In today’s highly fluid situation, the business and IT landscapes are becoming more and more complex. Traditional models and architectures have lost their sheen. The longer the pandemic stays, the stronger the chances are that we will not go back to the pre-COVID normal. The last few months have helped us learn and unlearn many things, and these learnings will pave the way for the new model. Things have changed, people have transformed, and mindsets have changed. There is an indelible impact on almost everyone.

Moreover, because of the new operational dynamics, organizations have altered their policies. They are now focusing more on innovation and agility. Digital transformation is high on the agenda. The current crisis has given a growing sense of belief and visibility to enterprises on the best ways to tackle any future disruptions.

On technology trends and business order post COVID-19
I feel that there is a natural push towards the implementation of new-age technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, business analytics, and robotic process automation (RPA). Until now, the adoption was happening at an unhurried pace. Now, digital transformation is no longer an option but a competitive advantage. The new normal is here to stay for a very long time, and no organization will like to be stuck because of its traditional ways of working. Enterprises have understood that they will need to explore ideas and means to ensure that the business continuity remains intact. Of course, given the fact that businesses have managed to stay afloat in the last four months, most of them are well equipped to plan their working models for the future.

There is a strong emphasis on contactless behavior, and this is likely to remain in place for an unspecified time. The pandemic has compelled us to keep focusing on social distancing, and hence enterprises will have stringent policies around contactless behaviors. Much focus will be on AI-based touchless and remote monitoring technologies implementation. So, the traditional model of working will be replaced by new working ways. Technologies like video and web-conferencing will continue to witness tremendous traction.

It is also expected that most of the organizations will invest a significant amount in multiple cloud environments to keep disruption at bay. The hybrid cloud model is likely to gain substantial traction businesses across sectors.

Going forward, companies will evaluate if they can save costs by reducing real-estate, and heavily relying on the new-age technologies for scaling-up. Technology is a great enabler, and ultimately all these benefits will be passed on to the employees. Organization can enhance the existing CCTV setups to accommodate social distancing, face masks, and hand gloves algorithms.

On balancing the short-term revenue requirements against long-term technology investment: 
It is natural for any organization to rationalize its investments. We are no exception either. Every technology investment is being seen in the long-term horizon of, say, three to five years. Anything less than that is technically not a tech investment. For instance, there might be days when manufacturing costs may outweigh any tech-implementation decision. However, that doesn’t mean that the company won’t invest in the required technology. Yes, at times, you’ve to face such tests, but tech investments always have their significance, and decisions are taken based on the value that the technology provides. For instance, let’s say an organization needs to invest in a face-scanning or a retina-based attendance system. Probably before the pandemic, there was no urgency to implement this technology. But in the current environment, everyone understands the long-term benefits of such contactless technologies.

On challenges related to security threats
Remote working has become a new reality, and in a way, the new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a concept of work from anywhere. Not just thousands but lakhs of people have shifted to WFH almost instantaneously. Hackers are always game to take advantage of such unparalleled situations. And for enterprises, it has become challenging to monitor and analyze the behaviors of employees who are accessing corporate data and networks remotely. Much focus will soon be on combining detection tools with machine-based cyber threat intelligence. Organizations will strengthen their capabilities to monitor behaviors and applications accessed by employees. Enterprises will continue to revisit their security policies and solutions to reduce risks to IT infrastructure. It is the need of the hour for businesses to consistently evaluate their readiness for supporting remote working as they scale up. There will be growing pressure on implementing a very sophisticated information security policy. Even SMEs will move away from free security tools and focus on robust and advanced information security solutions.

Chandresh is an IT business transformation leader with experience in digital, IT infrastructure, enterprise applications, information security, and IT governance and compliance. He has won numerous awards for his wide-ranging work in the domains of IT infrastructure and security.

An eloquent speaker and writer, Chandresh is also a marathon runner, environmentalist, and fundraiser. He has been associated with the Umeed Foundation for last three years and has raised more than Rs 6 lakh for education of needy children.

Expertise

  • Warehouse management and automation
  • Data virtualization on Denodo
  • Robotic process automation (RPA)
  • Software-defined WAN (SDWAN)
  • Mobile application development (Low Code)
  • Information security management
  • Cloud-based services on Amazon AWS and Google GCP
  • Enterprise applications and integrations
  • ERP implementation and support
  • B2B application support
  • DevOps and data engineering

Education

  • Global CIO Programme, Digital Innovation, Indian School of Business
  • MBA in Business Management, Marketing and Related Services from ITM and Southern New Hampshire University
Crypsis buy will augment Palo Alto’s AI-driven offerings

Crypsis buy will augment Palo Alto’s AI-driven offerings

Global cyber security major Palo Alto Networks has signed a deal to acquire The Crypsis Group, a consulting firm that operates in incident response, risk management, and digital forensics. Palo Alto will pay $265 million in cash for the purchase. The acquisition process is likely to finish during the quarter ending 31 October 2020.

Palo Alto Networks already has the capability to provides prevention, detection, and response capabilities through Cortex XDR, its ambitious artificial intelligence (AI)-based cyber security solution that natively integrates network, endpoint, and cloud data. Launched in 2019, XDR is an open-standard solution that harnesses technologies such as AI and machine learning (ML) to rapidly detect and respond to threats across an enterprise and its network.

Post Crypsis acquisition, Palo Alto plans to incorporate the Crypsis Group’s processes and technology into Cortex XDR. This integration will help Palo Alto strengthen its security consulting and forensics capabilities to collect rich security telemetry and to analyze, manage breaches, and initiate rapid response actions.

“The proposed acquisition of The Crypsis Group will significantly enhance our position as the cybersecurity partner of choice while expanding our capabilities and strengthening our Cortex strategy. By joining forces, we will be able to help customers not only predict and prevent cyberattacks but also mitigate the impact of any breach they may face,” said Nikesh Arora, chairman and CEO of Palo Alto Networks in a company statement.

The Crypsis Group boasts of managing some of the most complex and significant cyber security incidents and manages over 1,300 security engagements every year, serving organizations across the healthcare, financial services, retail, e-commerce, and energy. As part of the agreement, post-acquisition, all of Crypsis Group employees and the CEO, Bret Padres, will join Palo Alto Networks.

Big opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic has put enterprises under severe stress, and they are continuously redefining their business continuity plans for enabling their remote workforce to deliver exceptional results for clients. In such a scenario, their IT assets, cloud systems, departmental servers, and data centers have become all the more critical. (See: What it takes to secure IT in the COVID-19 era)

With a remote working environment becoming the new normal, there has been a growing risk for businesses to face new and advanced threats while they focus on agility and manage the scale. (See: Combating threats in the new normal)

“As threat actors continue to professionalize and grow in sophistication, the risk of revenue and the reputational impact of a security breach increases dramatically. To focus on the health and growth of their business, organizations need trusted partners to not only quickly and efficiently respond to and contain attacks but also leverage their learning and insight to prevent future attacks,” said Palo Alto in its release mentioning the Crypsis Group buy.

The current uncertain environment has given cybercriminals a lucrative opportunity to invent novel attacks for data theft. Given the fact that enterprises have accelerated their digital transformation plans and all operations are expected to move into a virtual environment, businesses cannot afford to take risks and are hence expected to invest massively in cyber security solutions in the next few years.

IT security players like Palo Alto are making full use of this opportunity and fast-tracking their capabilities to capture a significant share in the growing market. Since its debut in 2005, the company has expanded its horizons significantly and is offering a diverse set of solutions such as next-generation firewall, endpoint protection, and malware prevention to enterprises. Its acquisition spree in the last two years includes CloudGenix for $420 million in March 2020; micro-segmentation company Aporeto in December 2019; and cloud security companies PureSec (June 2019) and Twistlock (July 2019).

Driven by the work-from-home requirements, Palo Alto reported robust fourth-quarter 2020 financial results. Palo Alto’s non-GAAP net income for the period was $144.9 million, with revenue growth of 18% year-on-year at $950.4 million.

Palo Alto competitors in the market include FireEye, Fortinet, Check Point Software, CrowdStrike, Juniper Networks, and Cisco, among others.

Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay

Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay

Cloud software major Salesforce has joined the list of companies who’ve extended their work-from-home policies. Salesforce has announced an extension until July 31, 2021. Top technology companies such as Google and Facebook have already extended their work-from-home policies for employees till mid-2021. Other tech majors, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, have announced remote working until January 2021.

“Over the past few months, we have been working diligently to support our employees as they navigate this difficult time. The safety of our employees and communities remains paramount. And while we continue to work on plans to re-open our offices safely, the timing of when we bring employees back will be unique to each office — and we will continue to make those decisions in a way that’s consistent with local government guidelines and the advice of our medical experts and local leadership team,” said Brent Hyder, Chief People Officer of Salesforce in the company’s blog.

The San Francisco headquartered tech-major has also announced to give an additional $250 financial support to each of its employees for buying office supplies. The company had provided similar assistance to its employees earlier this year as well. Earlier this month, consulting major EY had also announced similar financial support of US$200 to each of its employees.

Besides, Salesforce employees who are parents will be entitled to take six additional weeks of paid leave. “In all situations where schools have been closed, and students are learning remotely, parents and guardians will be allowed to work from home, even if that date extends beyond our offices re-opening,” Hyder added.

The last six months have been challenging for a majority of companies and leaders. The uncertainty brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it extremely hard for both employees and employers to focus on work solely. People are dealing with issues such as social distancing, remote working, job-loss, elderly care, and ambiguity around almost everything.

As such, enterprises are finding several ways to motivate their talent and prevent burnout. Financial assistance, work-flexibility, and paid leave are some of the measures that companies are offering to support and attract employees.

The new normal is here to stay

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the companies would offer work-from-home to a very particular set of people on a rotational basis. At that time, In India, the remote-working model was mostly viewed as pointless, with much suspicion from employers. Companies were reluctant to experiment, and employees too were not attuned to an entirely virtual work-environment. However, things changed in a short time. The pandemic has suddenly pushed people to transform their behaviors and compelled them to adopt the new normal quickly.

See also Work-from-home even after Covid-19?

Most of the enterprises and employees have successfully navigated this transition and are looking forward to remote ways of working even after the pandemic subsides. For employers, the new normal is a significant opportunity to save substantial real-estate costs and translate the cost benefits to their employees. For employees, it’s a way to be more productive by reducing travel time while staying connected with their families.

According to a recent study, Technology and the Evolving World of Work by Lenovo, the majority of those surveyed (72 percent) confirmed a shift in their daily work dynamic in the last three months. Employees feel more connected and more productive than ever before as they work from home, but the data shows financial, physical, and emotional downsides for the global workforce.

There is no doubt that the experience of the physical work environment is vital to develop strong teaming and diverse skillsets and hence cannot be completely evaded. To balance that, companies could be mulling to rotate days or weeks of in-office presence for their employees in future, especially in the services sectors.

Can OnwardMobility make Blackberry bloom again?

Can OnwardMobility make Blackberry bloom again?

After a massive downslide in the last decade, the erstwhile dominant enterprise smartphone maker is eyeing an ambitious comeback in 2021. Will Blackberry bloom again?

The enterprise smartphone maker has collaborated with OnwardMobility, a US-based company in the mobile security space, and Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn to design and develop a new 5G Blackberry Android smartphone with a physical keyboard. According to an announcement by OnwardMobility, BlackBerry has given OnwardMobility the right to create, engineer, and bring to market a BlackBerry 5G mobile device. The new phone is likely to arrive in the first half of 2021.

“BlackBerry is thrilled OnwardMobility will deliver a BlackBerry 5G smartphone device with a physical keyboard leveraging our high standards of trust and security synonymous with our brand. We are excited that customers will experience the enterprise and government level security and mobile productivity the new BlackBerry 5G smartphone will offer,” said John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, BlackBerry in a statement released to analysts and media.

John Chen, who is widely credited as having earlier saved Sybase from the verge of a bankruptcy, was brought at the helm in 2013 and has since then stayed put.

See: CEO John Chen has pressed the BlackBerry restart button, actually!

Also read: With selloff shelved, BlackBerry hinges even more by Watsa

Return of the Motion?

The iconic Canadian smartphone maker once ruled the mobile market, with over 50% of the US and 20% of the global smartphone market share. However, it started losing the grip after the arrival of the iPhone4 in 2010 and its inability to foresee the rapid shifts in the market and the reluctance to transform swiftly. Today, the company is struggling with a share of less than 0.5% of the total smartphone market.

One of the biggest letdowns for Blackberry enterprise users was the company’s failure to develop a robust app store like Android and iOS. Besides, a delayed approach in introducing modern-day features such as dual camera and dual SIM also paved the way for its accelerated collapse.

In 2016, when Blackberry finally lost all hopes to reclaim its market share, it decided to move away from designing smartphones and awarded the development contract to TCL Communication. The not-so-fruitful association with TCL came to an end early this year, and the new covenant has now been given to OnwardMobility. The last flagship Android-based Blackberry phone launched by TCL was KEY2 LE, which received a lackluster response from the market. It would be interesting to see if OnwardMobility can make Blackberry bloom again.

Banking on the new normal

Due to the recent COVID-19 situation, a significant part of the population is working from home today. This trend is likely to remain in place even after the pandemic subsides. Most of the enterprise technology leaders are beefing up their network security architectures to support end customers and employees efficiently.

Despite losing its numero uno position in the enterprise mobility market, Blackberry continues to attract a specific set of users because of its classy physical keyboard and focused approach on privacy and security. As such, the new normal can present a unique opportunity for Blackberry to explore a wild-card entry in the smartphone market.

“With the increasing number of employees working remotely with critical data and applications, coupled with the constant threat of cyberattacks, there is an absolute need for a secure, feature-rich 5G-ready phone that enhances productivity. Employees are demanding better workplace technology experiences, and organizations are facing increasingly complex challenges in selecting, deploying, securing, and managing devices to meet expectations and maximize employee productivity,” says the joint statement from Blackberry and Onwardmobility.

The announcement may be surprising for many industry onlookers who wrote the obituaries for Blackberry Mobiles early this year after the termination of Blackberry-TCL collaboration. The move, however, is pleasing for the loyal Blackberry enterprise customers who have trusted its capabilities time and again.

“Enterprise professionals are eager to secure 5G devices that enable productivity without sacrificing user experience. BlackBerry smartphones are known for protecting communications, privacy, and data. This is an incredible opportunity for OnwardMobility to bring next-generation 5G devices to market with the backing of BlackBerry and FIH Mobile,” adds Peter Franklin, CEO of OnwardMobility.

It would be interesting to see if Franklin’s confidence can  translate into a renaissance for Blackberry in the post-COVID world.

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