$5 billion dollars invested, 10 years of execution and about $150 billion in value created. This is the story of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani and his journey to become a platform company… and the richest man in Asia.
Reliance’s platform journey started 10 years ago when it started acquiring telecom assets to launch its own cell service offering: Jio. At launch, Jio was cheap, provided a lot of data bandwidth, and had a handful of free, killer apps – predominantly media apps. The investment thesis: by undercutting the cell service competitors and amassing a huge base of users, Reliance could monetize those users at some point in the future.
Within a year of launching in the Fall of 2016, Jio had over 100 million users – almost 7 years since the founding of Jio and after investing over $4 billion USD.
Reliance deployed a “build and buy” strategy to expand a constellation of apps, from 10 at launch to dozens over the next few years. Many of the apps were built from scratch, either by internal resources, partnerships or acquiring small startups with strong tech talent. Only a few big acquisitions took place – predominantly for media apps like a Spotify-esque app called Saavn.
Through app bundles, a centralized login via MyJio and killer media apps, Reliance’s constellation app strategy was a success – amassing almost 400 million users by 2020. This strategy was aided by Reliance’s massive retail and physical footprint across India. A telecom company needs to have in-person support and retail offerings to customers; however, what Reliance was able to do which US telecoms have not done as successfully is to convert the telecom customer base into app users.
Over the years of executing their build and buy strategy, as we discuss further in our report, we highlight how Reliance was able to build this muscle memory in cross-pollinating their telecom users across their various digital properties. This linkage between the offline and online was the key to them crossing the chasm into a platform business.
In addition to Reliance’s telecom infrastructure roll-ups starting in 2010, our analysis looks at the over 20 acquisitions of software startups that contributed to Reliance Jio’s constellation of apps.
The success of their user adoption for the Jio family of apps is what positioned Jio to launch joint ventures with the likes of Facebook for commerce, Google for an Android partnership, and more.
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