New York: Reliance Jio will give a farmer in rural India high quality broadband internet comparable to best in class connectivity in the US or even better by 2018, Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited and “India’s richest man” said on CNN's globally top rated Fareed Zakaria GPS show Sunday.
Ambani said his ambitious Reliance Jio is gearing up for commercial launch of its fourth generation (4G) digital communication services in second half of 2016 — which Zakaria pegged as “staggering" and "bet of the century” on the marquee Sunday show.
Ambani explains to Zakaria why he is taking high risks with his transformational Reliance Jio to bring high quality digital broadband connectivity to a global cohort the Economist calls the “brainiest, best-educated generation ever”. To Zakaria's question on how Jio in India will compare with US telecom penetration, Ambani said Jio will do this very year what major US carriers have managed over the years: “I think if you look at what you have in the US, where major carriers today cover only 75 to 80 per cent of the market… we would be pretty much doing that in 2016 itself,” Ambani said.
India headlined Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show with two icons Mukesh Ambani and Shah Rukh Khan speaking on India’s dominant place in the world’s telecom, oil and showbiz markets as demographic shifts give India the phenomenal numbers that have turned the world’s spotlight here.
“For me personally, we made this investment just to make sure that the youth of India, which is still the bulk of India — India, as you know, is a very young country — is empowered, and they have an equal opportunity to not only prosper themselves, but to contribute to this new world. “And that was really a main reason. And that’s why we took very high risks,” Ambani said.
Zakaria, often described as “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation” interviewed Ambani at length on what he introduced to global audiences as the “economic opportunity of the moment.”
Ambani explains why he is betting big on Jio and why that is crucial for India which is on the threshold of a revolution never seen in a "100 years".
“As we saw the year 2012-13, India is 150th in the world in mobile broadband penetration as well as quality. And Jio is really conceived to change this position,” says Ambani in the exclusive interview that airs worldwide on CNN. Zakaria speaks at length with Mukesh Ambani on global oil prices too. Ambani said oil prices will remain "low for long, at least 3-5 years."
Zakaria travelled from New York to Mumbai to meet Ambani at his residence — Antilla, in India’s financial capital.
Full transcript of Zakaria's interview with Mukesh Ambani:
Zakaria: India’s richest man with a staggeringly vast plan of bringing high speed internet to a billion plus Indians in four years....I’m just back from India where I had the opportunity to sit down with that country’s richest man who is also the CEO of its biggest company. Forbes estimates Mukesh Ambani’s net worth as being almost $ 20 billion. Reliance Industries, the compay he heads, has a market capitalisation of $40 billion according to Bloomberg. He talked to me about what what seems to be one of the most hopeful stories about India and a piece of positive news in a gloomy global economy. In the next few years, an extraordinary thing will happen - one billion that's billion with a 'B' Indians will get internet access for the first time. What does that mean, for India and the world? Ambani's company, through a venture called Jio has bet billions of dollars on The economic opportunity of the moment. We sat down to talk in Mukesh Ambani's home in Mumbai.
Fareed Zakaria: Mukesh Ambani, than you for coming on the show.
Mukesh Ambani: Thank you Fareed, it's always a pleasure.
Zakaria: Your company generates huge amounts of cash. You have been pouring all of of this into one huge venture which is to provide the internet to people essentially on cellphones. Why do you think this is worth that massive investment?
Ambani: I believe that humanity is at the doorstep of massive change and we are just at the beginning of the information and digital age. And, in the next 20 years, in a networked society, we are going to have change much more than we have seen in the last 100 years. It’s really digitisation and the digital world that is going to lead this. From an India point of view…India cannot be left behind in this revolution. As we saw the year 2012-13, India is 150th in the world in mobile broadband penetration as well as quality. And Jio is really concieved to change this position.
Zakaria: To put it simply, would it be fair to say, India has not been really connected to the internet in a broad sense because infrastructure being such…the landlines that provide wired internet reach only about a 100-150 million Indians. What you are proposing is…
Ambani: Well we are ready to launch and in the second half of 2016, 80% of India’s population will have high speed mobile broadband internet - so 80 % of the 1.3 billion Indians will have high speed mobile internet. By 2017 end, we will cover 90 % and by 2018 all of India would be covered by this (Jio) digital infrastructure.
Zakaria: So by 2018, would a rural farmer in India have better internet than somebody in America.
Ambani:I think if you look at what you have in the US, right…after 5 years all the major carriers cover only 75-80 % of the US..and we would be pretty much doing that in 2016 itself.
Zakaria: Do you think this is the best investment opportunity in the world right now?
Ambani: This digital infrastructure I think is a very good investment. For me personally, we made this investment just to make sure that the youth of India, which is still the bulk of India — India, as you know, is a very young country — is empowered, and they have an equal opportunity to not only prosper themselves, but to contribute to this new world. “And that was really our main reason. And that’s why we took very high risks. As time has passed, this looks pretty good even business-wise.
Zakaria: Your company runs the largest oil refinery in the world. What do you think is the trajectory for oil prices going forward?
Ambani: As we see the situation- it’s low for long. And it’s really the first time in the world that oil prices have gone down on incremental supply.
Zakaria: What does that mean? Could you explain?
Ambani: What it really means is that we have had oil price spikes but never has it been because of more supply than demand. Also because of innovation primarily in the US, we have large quantitues of oil. The US has gone from less than a million barrels per day to 9 million barrels a day and OPEC has lost control of supply.
Zakaria: How long is long?
Ambani: At least 3 to 5 years until we see a structural change, but i’ve always been wrong (smiles).
Zakaria: This is indeed a dramatic situation…
Ambani: As we sit in India, consequence for India is very favourable as we are one of the largest importers of oil. It helps our forex bill, helps lower prices and in a certain sense it helps fiscal deficit of the government as they can mop up incremental revenue. For oil importing countries it is very good. On an overall economic basis, it is deflationary. All of us understand the dangers of deflation.
This transcript includes television and web content.