Sunday, June 13, 2010

King of grand vision and bold strokes

Reliance (RIL) led by Mr Mukesh Ambani re-enters the telecom market in India by acquiring Infotel (source) for about $1B.  Infotel, in the recently concluded auctions, won the pan-India Wireless Broadband license.  Why would a blog about payments and commerce care about this development?

Overview of RIL: As you might be aware, RIL is a major player in India's growing retail space.  RIL has been aggressive in experimenting with different formats of stores, business models, locations...  RIL, under the leadership of the older Ambani, has used a wide canvas and made bold and audacious strokes.  When RIL started Reliance Infocomm (since renamed to Reliance Communication), they were amongst the first telco to have Java on all their handsets.  RIL has been generating a lot of cash (cash surplus of $25B over the next 4 years [Source]) from its petrochemical business and needs new projects to deploy this cash.

RIL and Commerce: RIL's vision in communication is to make broadband-based TV, Internet and Phone affordable and ubiquitous (as they did with mobile phones/service in 2003 [Source]).  They plan on having
100M subscribers in 5 years.  In India's hyper-competitive market of 600M users, RIL's foray may come across as just another vendor in a crowded space.  What makes RIL's entrance into the communication interesting to the readers of this blog is the interplay between Retail, TV, Internet and Mobile services.  Images of convergence of brick and click commerce conjure up.  While many different economies and service providers have been going at this pot of gold for a while now, RIL on the coattails of near-10% growth in India, might be able to get to this pot of gold.  As importantly, RIL might be able to show a viable business model in a price conscious India market.

Early days and exciting times in mobile and electronic commerce in India.  Do you agree with this vision and hype?

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