With Android gaining focus in the Indian mobile market, it was unlikely that a feature phone from Reliance Jio could be disruptive. While the incumbents kept repeating similar strategies to squeeze profits, they ignored the elephant in the room — 50 crore feature phone users with close to zero disposable income. While telcos kept pushing for 4G adoption through flashy advertisements, and handset makers offered substandard budget Android smartphones, nothing changed the ground reality. Mobile data continues to be relatively expensive, people still complain about mobile internet speeds and affordable Android smartphones remain unreliable.
The Jio Phone with Jio plans could make incumbents go back to the drawing board. Here are nine ways how Reliance Jio could disrupt the market.
1) Free Calls Always: The Jio Phone brings free voice calls to feature phones. With this, the entire Indian mobile user base have the option to never recharge and pay for making voice calls.
2) 50 Crore Additional Mobile Data users: While the Jio Phone will provide access to Jio apps with unlimited data, people will get hooked to using Internet on their phones. This means, Jio Phone has the potential to add up to 50 crore users to the World Wide Web.
3) ‘Smart’ but Not a Smartphone: Jio Phone could add a new segment in the handset market altogether — 4G VoLTE-enabled feature phones which offers basic smartphone features. Domestic handset makers can eye this segment and innovate to bring down costs further.
4) Keep Check on Mobile Bills: With Jio setting a price benchmark for mobile bills, rival telcos would introduce aggressively priced plans to counter Jio. Sachets plans for as little as Rs 23 will make usage more affordable.
5) More Pressure for Telco Rivals: While telcos might ignore feature phone users and push them to adopt 4G, the introduction of Jio Mobile means rival telcos could end up losing their 2G subscriber base significantly, thus impacting its overall numbers. Note that these 2G subscribers using feature phone are the ones who are actually paying for making voice calls and SMS.
6) More Video Consumption: With unlimited data, video consumption in India is poised to grow. Free access to apps like Jio Cinema, Jio TV will make feature phone users watch more videos.
7) Mass Migration from 2G to 4G VoLTE: Jio Phone promises to migrate 2G subscribers (which are the majority in India) to 4G VoLTE at one go. As noted by RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani, soon there could be more 4G subscribers in India than 2G users.
8) Disrupt DTH Service Providers: While it may be too early to comment, the Jio Phone could challenge DTH players as well. The Jio Phone even aims to make old CRT TVs smart. User can connect their Jio Phone to TVs to watch live TV through app by paying Rs 309 per month additionally.
9) Cheap Android Phones Need to Get Better: Budget Android smartphones under Rs 5,000 need to get better and more reliable to face the Jio Phone heat. The Jio Phone appears to offer better value for money for people with limited usage and could possibly worry domestic handset players.