Jio Bharat will leverage device and network capabilities to deliver internet-enabled services on entry-level phones
The beta trial for the first 1 Mn Jio Bharat phones will begin on July 7 and will span 6,500 tehsils
Priced at INR 999, Jio claims the platform will offer 30% cheaper monthly plan and 7X more data compared to its competitors
Reliance Jio on Monday (July 3) unveiled its internet-enabled Jio Bharat feature phones priced at INR 999.
The feature phone will be rolled out for first 1 Mn users as part of a beta trial beginning July 7. The trial run will span across 6,500 tehsils and will aim to tap into the 250 Mn feature phone users across the country looking to upgrade to 4G services.
As per the telco, the pilot run will be undertaken to ensure the scalability of the platform and streamline processes before a full-fledged launch.
The device will be powered by Jio Bharat platform which will leverage device and network capabilities to offer internet-enabled services on feature phones.
In a statement, the company said homegrown original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Karbonn will also adopt the platform to build Jio Bharat phones. However, there is no clarity on the contours of the partnership between the two entities.
Jio also plans to onboard more players to spur its in-house platform.
Taking on other telecom companies, Jio also launched a slew of recharge packages for users on its platform. This includes the INR 123 monthly tariff plan and INR 1,234 annual recharge.
The company claims that it offers 30% cheaper monthly plans and 7X more data compared to other telcos. The monthly plan costs INR 123 and will offer 14 GB data, compared to other telecom operators which, as per Jio, offer similar recharges in the range of INR 179 per month for 2 GB of data.
“… It (Jio Bharat phone) is at the centre of innovation, and it continues to demonstrate our focus on bringing disproportionate and true value for different segments of users with meaningful, real-life use cases,” said Reliance Jio chairman Akash Ambani.
The launch is part of Jio’s bid to tap into a big section of Indian users that still use feature phones. With the sub-INR 1,000 offering, the oil-to-telecom conglomerate aims to offer internet-enabled products to the masses without spending much on re-educating the users about using smartphones.
Jio’s Platform Play
Since the very beginning, Jio has focussed its energies on scaling its feature phone ecosystem. It began in 2018, when the Mukesh Ambani-ledconglomerate’s subsidiary Reliance Retail acquired a 16% stake in KaiOS for $7 Mn. Subsequently, the conglomerate integrated the operating system into its JioPhone.
The idea with KaiOS was to build a new category of devices – smart feature phones. It helped Jio bring users into the famed ‘Jio walled garden’, beating competition on cost in the price-hungry Indian market.
With KaiOS, Jio aimed to bolster its platform play and convert new internet users into mature and data-guzzling internet customers.
Now, the strategy of bundling Jio Bharat phones with Jio SIM cards could help Jio retain customers. It can also become the entry gate for millions of Indians to enter the burgeoning digital economy. Besides, it could also help Jio power its in-house apps and tap into a growing audience looking to get a taste of high-speed internet.
The platform also bundles JioPay, JioCinema and Jio Saavn which are considered to be the next frontier for consolidating its digital play in the sector.
With the adoption of smartphones, feature phones are becoming more and more obsolete especially in the cities and towns where people have higher purchasing power. Despite this, the feature phones market, as per a report, generated revenue to the tune of $2.23 Bn in 2023.
With Jio eyeing a bigger pie of the existing 250 Mn feature phone user segment in the country, the space could see a major uptick in numbers.