India

POCO is now officially an independent brand

No longer affiliated with Xiaomi

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Xiaomi has announced it’s spinning off POCO as an independent brand. This means the brand will now operate on its own. POCO started in 2018 as a sub-brand of Xiaomi and the parent company has decided to bring in structural changes.

POCO branding is active in India while all other markets get Pocophone. The brand is famous for its POCO F1, an affordable phone that packs a flagship-grade processor. The phone’s arrival created a completely new category of smartphones that are built to be inexpensive, yet offer unmatchable speed.

However, POCO took the backseat in 2019 while Xiaomi rained the markets with Redmi branded phones. Fans have been asking about POCO F1’s successor ever since and the parent company consistently stayed silent about the sub-brand’s future.

Rival brand Realme was also formed as an independent company but is able to leverage OPPO’s infrastructure as “partners”. Having complete independence, the company can operate on its own and decide its own strategy. This structural divide let Realme form a new identity and within no time, it reckoned with Xiaomi as India’s leading mobile vendor.

There were reports in the second half of 2019 that suggested Xiaomi might ditch the POCO brand completely. It’s safe to say that isn’t happening anymore. POCO’s social media handles have been actively announcing discounts and deals on the POCO F1, suggesting a new product could be on the way soon.

India

Google, Jio to make new Android-based OS for budget phones

What happened to Android Go?

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India’s technology company Jio is partnering with Google to make a new OS (operating system) that’s Android-based designed for entry-level phones. Jio is India’s largest telecom operator and launched service in 2016 with pan-India 4G services.

The company aims to make the country “2G-free” and provide 4G or even 5G services on affordable phones. Chairman Mukesh Ambani is focusing on providing a smartphone to 350 million people.

The country is already the world’s second-largest smartphone market. But being a developing economy with a population of 1.3 billion people, there’s still a lot of untapped potential.

Over the years, Jio has launched Jio Phone and Jio Phone 2. Both, run on KaiOS and offer a smartphone-like experience. However, these still look like feature phones and depend on truncated functionality.

Details about the new operating system haven’t been revealed yet. Google has previously tried to tap the entry-level market by releasing Android Go.

The fork of Android is limited in terms of compatible apps but is meant to run on inexpensive hardware. However, we’ve seen very limited phones running Android Go and it hasn’t been a very successful endeavor.

Today, Google announced that it’ll be investing $US 4.5 billion in Jio, gaining 7.7 percent stake in the telecom operator. At Google for India, the company had committed an investment of US$ 10 billion in India over a period of five-seven years. However, it seems like much of it is already gone.`

It’s worth noting that Facebook has also acquired a stake in Jio. Reliance, Jio’s parent, has launched an online shopping platform called JioMart and it shall be deeply integrated with WhatsApp.

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

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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.

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India

realme C11 is a budget phone with MediaTek G35, 5000mAh battery

MediaTek’s latest processor

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realme hasn’t launched a budget phone for quite some time and it’s finally ready with a new offering that houses a very up to date processor. Dubbed the realme C11, the phone aims to offer everything, without burning a hole through your pocket.

Powering the phone is the recently announced MediaTek G35 processor and its fined tuned for balanced performance. The phone also gets a fresh design with a camera setup that looks similar to the Pixel series. The design is fresh and definitely doesn’t look mundane.

On the front is a 6.5-inch HD+ display with a tiny water-drop notch. The octa-core processor is paired with 2GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. It is backed by a 5000mAh battery that supports reverse charging via a USB-C port.

The rear sports a dual-camera setup consisting of a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 2-megapixel portrait lens. For selfies, a 5-megapixel selfie shooter is located on the front.

The phone is available in Rich Green and Rich Grey color options. The phone is priced at INR 7,499 (US$ 100) and shall go on sale from July 22 via Realme’s website and Flipkart. Sales are limited to India at the moment, but other markets are expected to get the phone soon.

realme also announced a new power bank along with the Realme C11. Officially called realme 30W Dart Charge 10000mAh Power Bank, it has a capacity of 10ooomAh and supports 30W fast charging.

In simple terms, it takes just a little more than 1 hour 30 minutes to fully charge it. Supporting multiple standards like Dart, VOOC, Quick Charge, PD, and more, it’s perfect for everyone on the go. It’s priced at INR 1,999 (US$ 27) and goes on sale from July 21.

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