Oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industires has announced a foray into the green energy sector, a tie-up with Google for an affordable smartphone and a host of measures to boost its retail and energy units.
While addressing shareholders at its annual general meeting on Thursday, Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani said the company will invest 750 billion rupees (US$ 10.11 billion) to set up four large factories to make solar photovoltaic cells, green hydrogen, batteries and fuel cells over the next three years.
“We plan to build four giga factories to manufacture and integrate all critical components of new energy ecosystem solar photovoltaic module factory, energy storage battery factory, electrolyzer factory, fuel cell factory,” Ambani said.
These four factories will involve an investment of 600 billion rupees. The conglomerate will invest the remaining 150 billion rupees in the value chain, partnerships and future technologies, including upstream and downstream industries.
“The age of fossil fuels, which powered economic growth globally for nearly three centuries, cannot continue much longer,” Ambani observed. This move is expected to bring Reliance Industries into direct competition with the Adani Group and Elon Musk.
Another major announcement was JioPhone Next, a 4G smartphone co-developed in partnership with Google. “JioPhone Next is one of the most affordable smartphones globally, which has cutting-edge technology,” Ambani said. It will be launched in India on September 10, and later introduced in many other countries.
Ambani also announced a partnership with Google for the latter’s cloud services to power Jio 5G solutions. This tie-up will help Reliance tap Google’s expertise as it extends digital services to small businesses, while for Google it offers the scale of Reliance’s businesses ranging from telecom to e-commerce.
Reliance chairman also announced that its digital and telecom unit Jio Platforms is testing a full new commerce solution in partnership with Facebook, adding that it has operationalized the Jio-Azure Cloud Centres in partnership with Microsoft.
In a significant development, Saudi Aramco Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan has been inducted into the oard of Reliance Industries as an independent director.
“Continued engagement and resolve from both sides, even during this pandemic, is a testimony of strong relationship between Saudi Aramco and Reliance; I expect our partnership to be formalized in an expeditious manner this year,” Ambani said.
Reliance had in 2019 announced a sale of 20% stake in its oil-to-chemical business to Saudi Aramco for $20-billion. However, the proposed deal got stalled after oil prices crashed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Oil prices have now begun to rise as the demand from the US and other countries have picked up following the lifting of lockdowns and travel curbs.
Al-Rumayyan is also the Governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund Public Investment Fund, which has invested billions of dollars in Reliance Group companies including Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail.