Enterprise

This Indian telco has raised more than $20 billion during the pandemic

Includes investors like Google, Facebook, and Qualcomm

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The Coronavirus pandemic has forced countries to implement strict lockdowns and curb international travel. Economies have fallen drastically due to lower spendings and rising unemployment. Healthcare has become a priority. Meanwhile, defense, as well as infrastructure costs, have been sidelined.

Work-from-home has become the norm and companies are actively trying to reduce operational costs. Investors have burned a lot of money since startups dependent on the gig economy are the worst hit. Raising funds right now is a herculean task and most start-ups are expected to go out of business in the coming months.

However, one company has taken full advantage of the pandemic-led lockdown. Officially called Jio Platforms, it’s an Indian telecom operator with more than 300 million active users. Dubbed Jio casually, it’s more than just a telecom operator and has managed to raise more than US$ 20 billion within a span of three months. Investors include marquee names like Google, Facebook, Qualcomm, Mubadala (sovereign fund of Abu Dhabi), Vista Equity, and more.

Google has also acquired a stake in Jio for US$ 4.5 billion. It has picked up 7.75 percent in the company, taking the total sale to 32.95 percent. The Google stake sale came to light immediately when the copy was ready for publishing and hence couldn’t be updated.

By Sanuj Bhatia

To be precise, Jio has raised US$ 20 billion from 13 companies by just selling a 25.2 percent stake. Considering the current investments, Jio is roughly valued at more than US$ 60 billion. What’s so special about this company that Facebook decided to splurge US$ 5.7 billion for just 9.99 percent?

India — the most promising market for any internet company

The US has always led the tech race in terms of research and innovation. With a developed economy, the market is self-fulfilling and companies are actively looking for new regions to expand to. The American influence is easily visible in western allies like the European Union, Japan, South Korea, as well as the Philippines.

India, on the other hand, is a developing economy that completely skipped the computer or laptop age and jumped onto the smartphone era. Today, it’s the world’s second-largest smartphone market, and 70 percent of the hardware is dominated by the Chinese. However, most phones run on Google’s Android, and American tech companies have been successful in expanding. This includes Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and more.

However, the telecom market remains hugely untapped. What will a smartphone do without wireless connectivity?

The rise of Jio and its ripple effects

At the beginning of 2016, 1GB of 3G data cost approximately INR 250 (US$ 3.3). Back then, Jio was completely owned and operated by Reliance Industries. Reliance is an Indian conglomerate that has its foothold in a plethora of segments including oil, retail, entertainment, and more. It’s one of India’s largest companies in terms of market cap and run by billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Just a few days ago, he became the seventh richest person on Earth, overtaking long-time contender Warren Buffet.

In a nutshell, Reliance pumped enough money into Jio and launched it in the middle of 2016. It was India’s first telco to offer pan-India 4G and the tariff was impossible to believe. For the first 6-9 months, unlimited 4G data was offered for free to lure customers from other networks like Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea. Considering Reliance’s backing, the company could afford to.

It also had an inherent advantage over telco’s because it directly rolled out 4G and did not support any previous standards. While other’s were figuring out inter-connection issues between 3G and 4G, Jio had already rolled out VoLTE. Jio only considered data as bandwidth and relied on internet protocol for calls, reducing its operational cost.

Within a year, 1GB of 4G data cost just US$ 0.2. India has the most affordable 4G in the world. Naturally, the competition couldn’t offer these rates without taking a hit on their profit as well as revenues. But, they had no option but to reduce tariffs. Slowly, companies like Aircel went out of business due to unsustainable rates. Vodafone merged with Indian player Idea to form Vodafone-Idea. By the end of 2019, the Indian market had only 3 players left — Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea.

Keep in mind, Jio has no debt due to its rich parent, Airtel has debt but can offload that with assets and equity, while Vodafone-Idea is on a ventilator. With more than 300 million subscribers, Jio is leading in terms of both, userbase as well as financial health.

Jio’s unique selling point — data

Reliance was planning to enter the telecom industry for a very long time and it saw it’s an opportunity with 4G. While other telcos were busy billing users for calls and SMS, Jio wanted to sell just one thing — more data. And, it came up with its own suite of services that ensured the user consumes more and more data.

India’s data consumption is expected to exceed 11GB by 2022. Although, the tariff has barely increased by 20-25 percent in the last few years. Some estimates are even more optimistic and indicate a 40 percent annual rise.

There’s no doubt that streaming services have changed the whole scenario. But, this is where Jio has an unbeatable offering. Since day one, the company has a suite of apps like Jio News, JioTV, JioCinema, JioSaavn, and even JioMeet. Today, there are 29 apps on the Google Play Store. This ecosystem ensures the user doesn’t have to look elsewhere. And, they are yet to be fully monetized. As a Jio subscriber, they’re pretty much free-to-use at the moment.

Data is the new oil

The suite of apps is mostly made for the end consumer. But, the company has grand plans for the future as well. It has already announced a partnership with WhatsApp to launch JioMart. It’ll onboard physical stores and function as a hyperlocal online shopping experience. A segment that hasn’t really taken-off yet despite investments from Amazon, BigBasket, and Grofers.

Coming to the enterprise side, Jio has acquired a plethora of startups and established companies for their know-how. This includes American telecom-technology company Radisys, Asteria Aerospace, Embibe, Haptik, and Netradyne. The company is poised to lead the 5G race due to its healthy financials and technology innovation. The company has announced it’ll carry out 5G trials based on its own technology and won’t be relying on third-party partners like Huawei.

The company is all set for the 5G future and has equivalent investments in IoT, blockchain, and digital payments. Jio may have started out as a telco, but it’s truly turning out to be a technology company.

The most lucrative technology company

All these factors make Jio a very attractive investment. Facebook tried to enter India with Freebasics and Internet.org but failed miserably. A piece of Jio gives it a chance to explore deeper than ever. For investment companies, the pandemic is a reality check. And, Jio just turned out to be a silver lining. With more and more people working from home, wireless data consumption is bound to rise.

Even companies are realizing work-from-home is a better model in many parts of the business since you can skip expensive property investments. Even if the work-from-home model fizzles out in the coming years, personal consumption will remain largely unaffected. And with India’s developing economy, smartphone penetration is expected to steadily increase. This shall also bring in more data consumption, online shopping, and other related tasks. With Jio covering all the bases, it is perfectly positioned to lead the Indian market.

Lastly, it’s essential to understand why Reliance decided to sell slightly more than 30 percent in Jio. The parent company has a debt to pay-off and its Chairman, Mukesh Ambani, had announced it’ll go debt-free by the end of FY2020. Its most valued business of refining oil has taken a hit due to the pandemic-led crude crash.

It won’t be wise to sell an undervalued asset. At the same time, Jio reached its peak. By giving away a minority stake to a range of partners, Reliance not only raised money but also established global trust and recognition of Jio Platforms.

For the global markets, the indication is clear. India is open for business and there’s huge potential.

Enterprise

Huawei garners more partnerships for HarmonyOS 2

Huawei is paying attention to its consumers

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Nova 8

Huawei continues to struggle with its loss of Google services for mobile devices. On the brighter side of things, the company is striving for development in other departments as well.

Huawei gives the Philippines another affirmation for its commitment to developing an AI ecosystem. The announcement came at the Huawei Development Day 2021. Strategic planning made 96 percent of the local apps available in the App Gallery.

A key move in this development is their partnerships with banking and e-Commerce apps. GCash, KonsultaMD, and WishFM to name a few, are a part of the key roster for their partnerships.

Some of you may know about the strong partnership of Huawei and DICT ( Department of information and Communications). With this partnership dating back to 2018, they came up with the Philippine Startup Challenge (PSC). This is a national startup competition that targets ICT solutions for real-life problems.

Lastly, the company also presented its funding programs regarding app development. They have recently invested US$ 1 Million to their recognized regions for app development. Namely, APAC, Europe, LA, Middle East, and China.

HarmonyOS 2 and Petal Nearby

At the latter part of 2021, HUAWEI will release a new version of HarmonyOS. Because of this, the “One as All, All as One” tagline is born. Easier connections between devices are expected of this update, as HarmonyOS is the operating system of their devices.

At the HDD event, the company claimed to have four breakthroughs:

  1. DecouopledOS and hardware
  2. Sharing capabilities between devices
  3. Smooth and low latency operation
  4. DevEco Studio

To know more about the four, you can watch the Huawei Developer Day 2021 and skip to the 44:39 timestamp for your convenience.

Petal Search is the search app for Huawei, this allows users to search for places and even restaurants as an example. With their latest introduction to its new channel, Petal Nearby. This is present in numerous devices in 170 countries with 50 languages available and 20 different categories.

Petal Nearby is the result of Huawei studying its consumers behaviors and their search trends. It’s a more location optimized service letting users find local businesses and restaurants based on their preferences. The results vary depending on your location. The user can change the city in case for  advanced planning purposes.

Huawei is finding new ways to develop their services for its consumers. The company is doing whatever it can to survive in this competitive industry.

 

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Enterprise

Apple is banning anti-China messages from engravings

In Hong Kong and Taiwan

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Though a relatively small part of their repertoire, one of the more unique services that Apple offers is the ability to engrave their devices with whatever a user desires. Well, almost anything. As it turns out, the company has its limits. And, according to a new report, those limits can be political. Apple is reportedly prohibiting anti-China messages from being engraved in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

According to a research website The Citizen Lab, Apple will not engrave 1,045 keywords in mainland China. However, the company is also banning 542 keywords in Hong Kong and 397 keywords in Taiwan. Apparently, half of those blocked terms are political in nature.

Apple users can’t have any messages related to democracy, human rights, or rebellion. They also can’t engrave any keywords related to the Tiananmen Square and the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.

The censorship is problematic, of course. Though censorship is par for the course in China, Apple is implementing the same limits to Hong Kong and Taiwan, which have both declared their independence from China.

According to the report, Apple is merely agreeing to China’s demands to maintain a consistent form of revenue from the mainland. Though China is filled with other competitors, the country is still an important part of Apple’s ecosystem.

SEE ALSO: Apple can soon scan your messages for nudity

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Apps

Shopee offers exclusive deals for vaccinated shoppers!

The Shopee initiative is here!

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Online shopping has taken over the quarantine era, no doubt! And now, Shopee is offering exclusive digital deals for fully vaccinated individuals. With the #FullyVaxxed package under Shopee Bayanihan, provides Filipinos with bundles for personal needs. Participating brands include Hygienix, Maxi-Peel, and Skin White just to name a few.

There are more than 15 million doses administered as of the moment, with more than 10 million having their first dose. Uncertainty regarding the efficacy of these vaccines hinder some to take the vaccines. Shopee’s initiative to offer the bundle hopes to encourage unvaccinated Filipinos to take the shot for immunity.

Steps on how to register and get verified:

  1. Sign up on the Shopee Bayanihan: #FullyVaxxed Package microsite.

  2. Submit a photo of the vaccination card to verify the completion of two doses and a valid ID

  3. Wait for the verification from Shopee

Availability

The package will be available until September 26, 2021. To know more about the package, you can click this link here.

 

 

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