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

Facebook entices creators as it eyes the online events market

Facebook entices creators as it eyes the online events market

Social media conglomerate, Facebook, has recently launched a new paid event feature that will enable Facebook page owners and event managers to create, set up, and collect payments for virtual events. While there are many platforms available to host online business events today, Facebook’s new feature is a first of its kind, which is completely free and doesn’t charge a commission, at least for now. Better World is of the view that with this launch, Facebook entices creators in a very emphatic way.

“With social distancing mandates still in place, many businesses and creators are bringing their events and services online to connect with existing customers and reach new ones,” said Facebook in a blog statement.

“By combining marketing, payment and live video, paid online events meet the end-to-end needs of businesses. Pages can host events on Facebook Live to reach broad audiences, and we’re testing paid events with Messenger Rooms for more personal and interactive gatherings,” it added.

The feature comes free to all web and android users. iOS users, however, will have to pay a 30% app store tax as part of Apple’s tax policy. All apps on Apple’s platform have to use its payment system for the in-app payments and required to pay 30 percent tax for the same.

“We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19. Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and SMBs will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue,” Facebook clarified in the blog post.

A tactical strategy

Facebook says users in 20 countries, including India, will be able to take advantage of this new paid event feature initially. What makes this announcement exciting is that businesses and professionals can launch, promote, accept payments, and build their user base through a single Facebook page. Event promotions can be done online by targeting specific users on the Facebook platform itself, who can pay and watch the event online.

This means that all kinds of events, from Yoga and dance classes to insightful knowledge sessions, can be hosted on Facebook for free.

Facebook is tactically marketing this new initiative as SMB-focused. The company is well aware that SMBs are the growth engines in many developing and emerging economies. By offering an exclusive and highly specialized service, it can create a vast market for itself in the post-COVID work environment. Simultaneously, by providing the services for free, it will be able to test the waters with less noise.

“In our most recent State of Small Business Report with OECD and World Bank, we found that access to cash continues to be the most common ongoing challenge for SMBs. Only 19% of surveyed businesses were getting any financial help (down from earlier in a pandemic). Many businesses are struggling, and every cent matters. Shifting in-person events to online is costly enough that companies shouldn’t have to worry about fees charged by platforms,” Facebook said.

Early this year, Facebook had also announced the launch of Facebook Shops. This initiative was to enable businesses to display and sell their products directly to Facebook users across its ecosystem, including Instagram. (See: Facebook Shops shake-up marketplaces)

A low-hanging events opportunity

The online events industry has suddenly become more lucrative due to a burst in demand, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 scenario. With work-from-home and physical distancing measures likely to remain in place for an unspecified time, businesses will continue to focus on digital avenues for meetings, conferences, and customer interactions.

Tech giants like Google and Microsoft, among others, are already putting more research and development efforts to enrich their solutions and increase their share of a lucrative online events market with good upside potential. Various studies pegged the current market size of online events at around $100 billion, slated for a five-fold increase in the next six to eight years.

Facebook, with its vast network and community of over 2.7 billion users, stands a unique chance to create a niche in the online events space. Additionally, Facebook’s Oculus division, which it acquired in March 2014 for US$2.3 billion, specializes in virtual reality hardware and software products. In future, the social giant could very much leverage the Oculus base for creating an ecosystem around virtual-reality conferences, aka events 2.0.

Tech M to use AI-based upskilling to build a ‘Fit for Future’ workforce

Tech M to use AI-based upskilling to build a ‘Fit for Future’ workforce

Tech Mahindra, a leading provider of digital transformation, consulting, and business re-engineering services and solutions, said it would leverage artificial intelligence (AI)-based learning platform to create a ‘Fit for Future’ workforce. The initiative aims to accelerate new-age skill development for over 60,000 employees globally.

Powered by New Age Delivery (NAD), this upskilling-as-a-service (UaaS) program is aimed at enhancing employee competencies across emerging technologies like 5G, cloud, big data, and robotic process automation. The learning platform leverages AI to provide interactive, on-demand, contextual, and hyper-personalized upskilling to employees in self-service mode to make them fit for future. UaaS enables employees to access world-class content and assessments from across 30+ partners along with cloud-based practice platforms and deployment avenues. The platform empowers employees for seamless transition to digital jobs. The platform is also helping Tech Mahindra tide over the Covid pandemic by facilitating more learning interventions accelerating skill development as per changing business landscape.

Harshvendra Soin, Global Chief People Officer and Head of Marketing, Tech Mahindra, said, “As a global digital transformation leader, we continue to leverage digital technologies to enhance human experiences and talent development to meet changing business and market requirements. Upskilling as a Service platform is empowering our associates to identify and pursue their career aspirations at a speed of their preference, while also giving the tools to work with renewed passion and confidence to create future-ready workforce ‘today’.”

UaaS deploys Skill Knowledge Unit (SKU), a set of related skills cutting across various roles, aimed at providing holistic learning for employees across multiple technical as well as functional (domain), behavioral, and professional skills, thus grooming well-rounded professionals with entrepreneurial and solution-oriented mindset. The platform further recommends relevant career paths and SKUs to the employees based on their current skillset, time to upskill and opportunities available.

Vaishali Phatak, Head – Technical Learning Services & Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) said, “UaaS (upskilling as a service) is enabling our employees to continuously upskill and take charge of their growth and relevance to business throughout their journey with Tech Mahindra. The platform is helping us deliver value to our customers by grooming employees in full stack/ end to end professionals for current projects as well as future assignments. We plan to extend the platform to academia, thereby helping college students become future ready by the time they graduate.”

Tech Mahindra developed this upskilling platform in-house to create an ecosystem for higher scale and speed of skill development and fulfil people supply chain needs of the organization amidst dynamic business environment. As part of its TechMNxt charter, Tech Mahindra is betting big on next gen technologies to solve real business problems of the customers by delivering innovative solutions and services. The organization plan to leverage Upskilling as a Service platform along with aggressive industry-academia partnerships, Fit for Future re-skilling and research programs to develop digital capabilities like AI, IoT, AR/VR, and cloud to create workforce of the future.

(To read more industry news, click here.)

Here’s how the new Cyber Security Policy could reshape CISO roles

Here’s how the new Cyber Security Policy could reshape CISO roles

Gone are the days when cyber security was considered a poor cousin of IT. It has gained a strategic national importance today. The fact that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about it in his Independence Day speech is a testimony to that. In his statement, PM Modi said that the country would soon introduce a new Cyber Security Policy.

Indeed, it’s been seven long years when the first Cyber Security policy was brought into effect in 2013. The cyber security and IT security landscapes have phenomenally changed in these past years. In the last few years, India has made rapid strides in the digital technologies, and as such, cyber security has become an essential part of national security.

From a technology perspective, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are on the verge of seeing a burst in adoption in the coming years. Once 5G spectrum auctions happen and the services get rolled out, there is bound to be a flooding of IoT and AI applications.

Strategic shift from MeitY to NSC

Notably, National Cyber Security Strategy 2020 was being prepared by a task force set up under the aegis of the National Security Council (NSC) Secretariat. NSC is a high-powered government agency that was first brought into existence during the tenure of late Atal Behari Vajpayee, and has evolved significantly in its role under the leadership of PM Modi. Ajit Doval is currently the National Security Advisor.

On the other hand, the National Cyber Security Policy of 2013 was prepared by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MeitY).

The shift from MeitY to NSC has clearly been prompted in the wake of a steep rise in state-sponsored cross-border cyber attacks from India’s adversaries. Concerns have been raised regarding the growing potential of attacks on government agencies as well as business establishments. A recent attack on e-mail servers of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is a case in point.

National security linkages

With Lt. General Rajesh Pant taking over as the Cyber Security Chief in 2019 from Dr. Gulshan Rai, the role of NSC in steering cybersecurity frameworks became all the more pronounced. While Dr. Rai had transitioned from DeitY, Lt. Col. Pant is a veteran specializing in defense IT and telecom matters.

In future, Better World expects the new Cyber Security Policy to define a framework where enterprise information security goals could have deeper linkages with the overarching theme of national security.

This could drive some fundamental shifts in the enterprise infosec landscape and also require CIOs and CISOs to have some working understanding of cyber laws, which are expected to undergo some modifications to align with the new Cyber Security Policy.

For example, it would be important for CISOs to better comprehend the policy constructs. This way, they could meaningfully provision that information security policies at their respective organizations have well-defined linkages with the broader national security frameworks.

The opportunity for CISOs to broaden their horizons and up the value chain could be around soon. Keep watching!

New Dropbox features could make pro remote workers more sticky

New Dropbox features could make pro remote workers more sticky

Dropbox has launched a host of new features for its premium subscribers, a move aimed at facilitating better real-time collaborative work experience amidst the new work-from-home normal. The cloud storage provider has introduced three new Dropbox features: a password manager, a secure vault, and an automatic storage feature for its Dropbox Professional and Plus users. In June this year, Dropbox had made these features available to beta users.

According to Dropbox, the password manager will help its users save their different credentials in one safe place and autofill them so that users can instantly sign into various websites and apps. The new password manager works on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android OS.

This service, though not exclusive, will help Dropbox users put strong and unique passwords for different web-apps without any hurdle of remembering them.  There is already a flurry of free password managers such as Lastpass, Myki, KeePass, Dashlane, among others, in the digital marketplace today. Dropbox mentions that the feature will allow users to sync their passwords automatically from the desktop to mobile devices and vice versa.

The new Vault feature provides an extra layer of security for relevant documents to Dropbox users. According to the company, users can store files such as insurance cards, passports, and housing documents in the Vault and provide access to their trusted friends and family members in case of an emergency. Currently, the service is available to Dropbox Plus users only.

The last feature that the company has introduced is the computer backup feature. The feature eliminates the need for manual backup and automatically syncs folders on the PC directly with Dropbox. This service is available to all Dropbox users.

Eying new opportunities

With over 600 million registered users and around 15 million paid customers across 180 countries, Dropbox is undoubtedly one of the most significant players in the cloud storage segment. The San-Francisco headquartered company is competing closely with the likes of Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business, Box, Zoho Docs, ShareFile, and Apple’s iCloud in the market. Besides these, the industry is also witnessing the entry of several newbies who are chipping away the market share.

Dropbox’s new feature announcement is in line with the company’s strategy to increase its user base and become profitable by the end of 2020. During the last couple of years, Dropbox has taken aggressively steps to bolster its proposition in the digital collaboration space. In September last year, the company launched Dropbox Spaces, a machine intelligence-enabled smart feature that lets teams reorganize and bring all their documents together in one place so that multiple users can access everything from one central location. Besides, Spaces also enables Dropbox users to scan and find their records immediately by inserting keywords.

Earlier, Dropbox’s strategic partnership with Zoom Video in 2018 was aimed at helping its users to seamlessly communicate and discuss content in real time.

Dropbox ended the second quarter fiscal 2020 on June 30, with US $1.931 billion in revenue and over 15 million paying users. According to Dropbox, it witnessed a revenue increase of $67.3 million quarter-on-quarter and 17% year-on-year. During the last one year, the company has also been able to increase its average revenue per paying user from $120.48 to $126.88. 

Tough competition ahead

The cloud storage market is gaining enormous traction today. Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the remote work environment has become a new reality. As such, the traditional way of storing data is becoming obsolete, and cloud storage companies are exploring new opportunities to benefit from the work-from-home trend.

Enterprises and professionals are rapidly moving towards collaborative workspaces and prefer storing data in a way that can be accessed and shared anytime with anywhere digitally. As such, players like Dropbox, who have strong fundamentals, will continue to gain market share. However, even with the growing opportunity, the market is expected to see significant consolidation in future. Tech giants like Microsoft and Google are speedily enhancing their digital portfolios with an eagle’s eye on cross-selling opportunities. As such, industry observers expect the document cloud storage market to consolidate into four to five major players in the next 12 months. It will be exciting to see if players like Dropbox can maintain the momentum with new pathways for growth or decide otherwise.

LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare to focus on more premium services

LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare to focus on more premium services

In a significant development, SlideShare, LinkedIn’s presentation-sharing service platform, has been acquired by Scribd, a digital library giant, for an undisclosed amount. As LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare, it also undoes the acquisition done eight years ago. The deal with Scribd is likely to be completed by September this year.

SlideShare has been part of LinkedIn since May 2012 and has helped LinkedIn users increase knowledge and share best practices in areas such as marketing, sales, and digital transformation, among others.

“On September 24, Scribd will begin operating the SlideShare business, its 100 million users, along with its presentation upload and hosting tools, and tremendous archive of presentations and documents,” said LinkedIn in an official statement.

Launched in October 2006, SlideShare has been considered as the YouTube of slideshows by the tech industry. LinkedIn acquired the SlideShare platform in 2012 for $119 million. At that time, LinkedIn said that the acquisition would enable it to deliver more value to its users who can share their experiences and knowledge in the form of various documents, videos, and presentations. Later, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016 as part of a wider UC&C strategy.

Through its blog post, LinkedIn has informed that existing SlideShare users can continue to access their account with the current login information. Post transition, Scribd will manage the existing SlideShare accounts as per their terms and conditions.

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A good fit in Scribd’s portfolio?

Scribd has been on an expansion spree for the last few years. The company was launched in 2007 with a sole focus on document-sharing service and then added an e-book subscription service in 2013. Over the years, it started sharing almost everything under the skin on its digital platform.

By acquiring SlideShare, Scribd will be able to further diversify its offerings to users. The company currently has over 100 million digital assets, including audiobooks, music, e-magazines, podcasts, and e-books, hosted on its platform. Now, with SlideShare purchase, it will further expand its portfolio in professional content and presentation space as well.

Last year, the company had raised $58 million from growth firm Spectrum Equity for its expansion and growth plans.

“Our acquisition of SlideShare is a major step towards creating the world’s largest digital library,” said Trip Adler, co-founder and CEO of Scribd. He further elucidated that the acquisition will enable Scribd to continue to diversify offering while driving even more readers to the books, audiobooks, magazines, and other professionally published works in its digital library.

LinkedIn does away with a misfit?

As LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare, the move seems to be in line with its future strategy of focusing on its premium services for the next level of growth. For the first few years, the professional networking site wanted to build a repository of contacts senior executives, enabling real-world professional relationships. At that time, it offered almost everything for free without concentrating on revenues. However, with over 700 million registered members in 150 countries, it is now majorly focusing on premium services with a monthly subscription model. Some of the key services it has been offering under its premium plans include In Mails, premium insights, online training, among others.

SlideShare, for all the reasons, has not been aligning well with LinkedIn’s long-term plans. First, it was a free service where everyone could share and distribute professional content, which may or may not have been attributed to genuine authors.

Second, through its verified training courses and downloadable resources, it can strategically focus on building exclusive content repositories for its premium users. In future, virtual platforms will likely become more mainstream mediums to learn, collaborate, and share.

Embee launches VirtuaPlace for SMBs in India

Embee launches VirtuaPlace for SMBs in India

Embee Software Pvt. Ltd. has announced the launch of VirtuaPlace business continuity solution aimed at small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India. The solution is aimed at facilitating SMBs in cloud adoption. VirtuaPlace for SMBs runs on Microsoft Azure and brings together offerings across Azure, Microsoft 365, Octane HRMS, SAP Business One, and Windows Virtual Desktop.

The launch comes amidst a growing assumption that remote work scenario is here to stay even beyond the pandemic situation, and seamless teamwork, collaboration, data security and more at controlled prices is going to be a need for the SMBs.

Embee has been a partner of Microsoft India for more than 30 years and has empowered 2500+ organizations of all sizes with customized digital solutions in the IT services market. It also has one of the largest cloud consumption and adoption of portfolios in India, with more than 2 million entitlements in Microsoft 365 and 70% growth in Microsoft 365 business in FY2019.

Sudhir Kothari

Sudhir Kothari, MD & CEO, Embee

“This COVID-19 adversity can inspire organizations to rethink their digital strategy and adopt the offerings to transform their businesses. VirtuaPlace is designed to empower small-medium businesses and enterprises with business continuity, robust security, and productivity while scaling their operations at reasonable costs. Businesses can choose from a variety of solutions and services, curated to their needs, at an attractive monthly subscription. Embee is eager to be the partner in growth for organizations in the digital age,” Sudhir Kothari, MD & CEO Embee Software Pvt. Ltd, noted.

With VirtuaPlace, Embee is focusing not just on smooth onboarding but also on ensuring customer adoption of the new technologies on a foundation of successful digital transformation. To its credit, Embee has onboarded more than 200 schools to utilize Microsoft Teams as a remote learning tool during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Krishna Sai

Krishna Sai, CTO, Embee

“With the solution, schools have found themselves equipped with a digital platform to ensure continuity in learning. The swift implementation, taking as little as 3-days per school, establishes Embee’s credentials to empower organizations digitally. We are looking to replicate this success with VirtuaPlace across the country,” Krishna Sai, CTO, Embee Software Pvt. Ltd, said.

Venkat Krishnan, Executive Director, Commercial Partners, Microsoft India said, “Small and medium businesses form the economic backbone of our country. Bringing together the power of the Microsoft cloud and other offerings in a secure and scalable environment, VirtuaPlace by Embee can helps SMBs transform digitally and be future-ready in a world of remote everything.”

Apart from creating a virtual place for business to overcome remote working challenges, Embee offers a secure environment and advanced threat protection to its partners so that they can adapt to remote work environments, more smoothly.

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