By Shashank Bengali and Parth M.N.
Los Angeles Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Mukesh Ambani’s “Reliance Jio service” is a symbol of the surging tech market in India, which has more than 1 billion cellphone users but the lowest rate of internet penetration of any major economy.
Engineers and entrepreneurs with roots in India have helped build titans of Silicon Valley. Now an Indian technology company says its growth is outpacing such giants as Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook.
The country’s richest man has launched a mobile telecommunications network that signed up more than 50 million subscribers in its first three months, which he said makes it “the fastest growing technology company not only in India, but in the history of the world.”
Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio service is a symbol of the surging tech market in India, which has more than 1 billion cellphone users but the lowest rate of internet penetration of any major economy.
It is also a sign of the power of a good deal: Jio is offering mobile data and internet-based calling within India free of charge for six months. That has forced competitors to reduce their rates and is expected to make mobile data more affordable for Indian consumers, who pay some of the highest prices in the world, in terms of purchasing power, to surf on their smartphones.
That could go a long way toward expanding internet access in India, where only about one-third of the 1.3 billion people go online regularly.
Poor fixed-line infrastructure means that most use the internet on their phones _ but patchy cellular data networks and electricity shortages in rural areas are barriers to the “digital India” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has boasted of creating.
With two out of five Indians younger than 20, tech companies see this country as one of the world’s last great sources of new customers. Before Jio’s rollout in September, Facebook, Google, Uber and other U.S. giants had all introduced initiatives targeting Indian consumers, with varying degrees of success.