Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd. Photo: AFP
Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of India's Reliance Industries. Photo: AFP

In less than three years since its launch, Reliance Jio, owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, has now become India’s second biggest telco in terms of revenue. According to a report by venture capitalist Mary Meeker, Reliance Jio’s cheap data plans have also led to a sharp rise in the number of internet users in India.

During the January-March quarter Reliance Jio overtook Bharti Airtel, in terms of both combined adjusted gross revenue (AGR) generated from mobile access services as well as national long distance services.

Launched in September 2016, Reliance Jio has been the top operator for the past few quarters in terms of mobile access services revenues, but it was lagging behind Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel in long-distance service revenue.

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India figures for the January-March quarter, Reliance Jio had a combined adjusted gross revenue of 99.85 billion rupees (US$143 million), while for Airtel it was 86.08 billion rupees ($124 million). Vodafone-Idea continued to be the top operator with revenue of 101.48 billion rupees ($146 million).

Industry watchers feel Reliance Jio may become the top operator for the April-June period in terms of combined revenues, as the operator has gradually been increasing its revenue from long distance services.

In terms of subscriber base also, Reliance Jio is second only to Vodafone-Idea with 306 million subscribers. Airtel has 284 million subscribers and Vodafone-Idea 387 million.

In a related development an annual report on internet trends across the world by Mary Meeker has stated that the number of internet users in India is exceeded only by China, which has the largest base, accounting for 21% of all internet users globally, followed by India (12%) and the US (8%).

The report noted that the growth in internet users in India was driven by freebies doled out by Reliance Jio and cheaper smartphones. Reliance Jio’s free voice call and cheap data plans have helped double data usage in a year.

According to Meeker, Reliance Jio has created a hybrid, online-to-offline commerce platform by integrating Reliance Retail’s physical marketplace with Reliance Jio’s digital infrastructure and services, thus doubling its growth in a year to a total of 306 million subscribers.

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