Archive for ‘mobile tech’

09/03/2017

Schumpeter: Mukesh Ambani has made the business world’s most aggressive bet | The Economist

SOME businesspeople are guided by experts, spreadsheets and crunchy questions. What is your three-year target for market share? Will a project deliver a reasonable return on the capital invested? A few hurl all the forecasts and reports into the bin and surrender to their own hunger to make a mark.

One such figure is Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man. In September 2016 he placed one of the biggest business bets in the world by launching Jio, a mobile-telecoms network that allows India’s masses to access data on an unprecedented scale. In the past six months it has won 100m customers. Only one other firm on the planet has such an acquisition rate—Facebook. From Kolkata’s slums to the banks of the Ganges, millions of Indians are using social media and streaming videos for the very first time.

To achieve this, Mr Ambani has spent an incredible $25bn on Jio, without making a rupee of profit, terrifying competitors and many investors. The motivation for his gamble probably lies with his turbulent family history. Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Mr Ambani’s company, was set up by his father, Dhirubhai, in 1957. Born in humble circumstances, Dhirubhai was famous for three things: running rings around officials; creating a fortune for himself and RIL’s army of small shareholders; and his appetite for giant industrial projects. RIL jumped from textiles into oil refining and petrochemicals. Its refinery in Gujarat is one of the world’s largest. It opened in 2000, two years before Dhirubhai died.

Mukesh Ambani and his brother, Anil, took the reins in 2002 and split from each other in 2005, leaving Mukesh in full control of RIL. Since then his record has been patchy. RIL’s shares have lagged India’s stockmarket over the past decade and its return on capital has sagged, halving from 12% to 6%.

Emulating his father, Mr Ambani has rolled the dice on several huge projects. He has invested huge sums to modernise the petrochemicals and refining business. This decision has been a success—it is an excellent operation that makes a return of about 12%. But Mr Ambani’s other investment calls have flopped. In 2010-15 RIL spent $8bn on shale fields in America. Now that oil prices are lower they lose money. The group invested about $10bn in energy fields off India’s east coast; they have produced less gas than hoped for and are worth little. And RIL has spent around $2bn on a retail business that produces only small profits. All told, RIL’s refining and petrochemicals unit accounts for two-fifths of its capital employed but over 100% of operating profits. The other businesses, developed mainly after Mr Ambani took sole charge, swallow a majority of resources but don’t make money.

A lesser man might have lost his nerve, but Mr Ambani has pursued another colossal bet in the form of Jio. He knows telecoms: in 2002 he oversaw the family’s first attempt to build a big mobile-phone business (his brother now owns the struggling operation). The latest effort has been a decade in the making. Step by step, RIL acquired spectrum, worked with handset suppliers and built a “fourth-generation” network. Jio’s offer of free services caused a sensation. A savage price war has ensued. One rival executive reckons Jio is carrying more data than either China Mobile or AT&T, the world’s two most valuable operators.

That underlines the potential of India’s telecoms market. Data usage is low, there are few fixed lines and most people don’t have smartphones. The incumbent firms are heavily indebted, so have limited ability to respond to a price war.

Jio will start charging from April 1st. Yet even assuming it keeps cranking prices up and wins a third of the market, a discounted-cash-flow analysis suggests that it would be worth only two-thirds of the sum that Mr Ambani has spent. To justify that amount Jio would at some point need to earn the same amount of profit that India’s entire telecoms industry made in 2016. In other words, there is no escaping the punishing economics of pouring cash into networks and spectrum. For every customer that Jio might eventually win, it will have invested perhaps $100. Compare that with Facebook or Alibaba, both asset-light internet firms, which have invested about $10 per user.

Jio’s three main mobile competitors have scrambled to respond. Bharti Airtel is buying a smaller rival to try to lower its costs. Vodafone is in talks about merging with Idea Cellular, another operator. Half a dozen or so weaker companies (including the firm now run by Mr Ambani’s brother) will probably disappear. The best hope for Jio is that in the distant future it will be one of three firms left and that a cut-throat industry will evolve into a comfy oligopoly, which is possible.

RIL’s share price has gone nowhere for years but excitement about Jio’s 100m new customers has helped it bounce over the past month. Still, the scale of the investment illustrates the risks that shareholders face at a firm that is controlled by one man. Even if Jio eventually gushes cash it is not clear if RIL will pay bigger dividends, or if Mr Ambani will instead pursue another grand project. As investors wait, however, many more of India’s 1.3bn consumers will gain—not only from low prices, but a welcome splurge on the nation’s telecom infrastructure.

Defiance from Reliance
And what of Mr Ambani? Perhaps he hopes to get his money back by turning Jio into an internet firm that offers payment services and content, not just connectivity. China’s Tencent, which owns WeChat, a messaging service, has successfully diversified into games and banking. Still, no telecoms firm has managed this feat and it is hard to see how RIL’s clannish culture can become a hotbed of innovation. More likely, Mr Ambani, aged 59, just doesn’t care what all the spreadsheets point to. Sitting atop his skyscraper, overlooking teeming Mumbai, where some 5m new Jio customers are surfing the web at high speed for peanuts, he can at last say that he has changed India. When you are Dhirubhai’s son, that is probably enough.

Source: Schumpeter: Mukesh Ambani has made the business world’s most aggressive bet | The Economist

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22/06/2016

Cabinet approves auction of mobile phone airwaves – govt source | Reuters

The cabinet approved on Wednesday an auction of mobile phone airwaves, a government source told Reuters.

Earlier this year India’s telecoms ministry had proposed sale of airwaves in the 700 Mhz, 800 Mhz, 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, 2100 Mhz, 2300 Mhz and 2500 MHz bands.

India is the world’s second largest mobile phone market by users after China, and a rapid expansion of high-speed 4G services is expected to create demand for additional airwaves.The government is expected to announce details of the auction at a press conference later in the day, the official who did not want to be named, said.

Source: Cabinet approves auction of mobile phone airwaves – govt source | Reuters

10/08/2015

China’s Xiaomi to Make Smartphones in India – India Real Time – WSJ

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. will begin manufacturing phones in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, according to the state’s highest elected official.

A tweet from the verified account of N. Chandrababu Naidu, the state’s chief minister, said Xiaomi would announce the move today.

Xiaomi’s move follows Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn’s announcement Saturday that it plans to spend $5 billion on factories and research and development in the western state of Maharashtra. Foxconn, known officially as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. assembles Apple Inc. iPhones and as well as most of Xiaomi’s phones. Foxconn has a plant in Andhra Pradesh.

The Indian government amended its customs rules recently to make it more attractive to make electronic goods in India, as it seeks to boost manufacturing, create jobs and reduce reliance on expensive imports from China.

via China’s Xiaomi to Make Smartphones in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

28/07/2015

Apple ‘fake factory’ raided in China – BBC News

A factory which allegedly made up to 41,000 fake Apple iPhones has been raided in China, with nine arrests.

iphone 6

The operation reportedly involved “hundreds” of workers repackaging second hand smartphone parts as new iPhones for export, with counterfeit phones produced worth 120m yuan ($19m).

The factory was discovered on 14 May but was revealed on social media by Beijing’s public security bureau on Sunday, according to reports.

The operation was set up in January.

It was led by a husband and wife team, on the northern outskirts of the Chinese capital, according to Beijing authorities.

They said they had been alerted to the factory by US authorities which had seized some of the fake phones.

The reports come amid an official Chinese crackdown on counterfeit goods, with authorities pushing firms to trademark their goods.

China has also agreed to work with the US authorities to try to stem the large quantities of fake goods flowing between the two countries.

The discovery of the factory comes four years after fake Apple stores were found in Kunming city, China.

Discovered by blogger BirdAbroad, the fakes were so convincing she said many of the staff themselves were convinced that they were employed by the US electronics firm.

via Apple ‘fake factory’ raided in China – BBC News.

28/10/2014

Softbank invests $840M in India tech companies – Businessweek

Japanese telecommunications company Softbank Corp. is investing nearly $840 million in two technology companies in India, eyeing what it sees as a lucrative market for growth.

Softbank said Tuesday it is investing $627 million and becoming the biggest shareholder in Snapdeal, the largest digital marketplace in India with 25 million users and 50,000 businesses. It brings together products from thousands of big and small brands.

The Tokyo-based company, which recently acquired Sprint in the U.S., is also investing $210 million in Ola Cabs, which runs the technology to connect consumers with cab drivers in India.

Softbank executives said they were banking on India because it has a large number of Internet users, the online market is not yet saturated and connection speeds are likely to get faster.

via Softbank invests $840M in India tech companies – Businessweek.

15/09/2014

Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If you’re tired of walking behind someone who’s trudging along as they text, has this Chinese city got the sidewalk for you.

Last week, the city of Chongqing unveiled a lane specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cellphones. “Cellphones, walk in this lane at your own risk” is printed in the lane in white lettering. The adjoining lane reads “No cellphones.”

On Monday, Weibo users reacted to the news with a mixture of amusement and scorn. “It’s such a lazy design. Shouldn’t the cellphone lane be placed [farther from the road]? It is not practical at all,” wrote one user.

Another dismissed the innovation, writing, “It’s just another imitation of foreign inventions,” the user wrote, referring to a similar experiment launched in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. “Besides, it seems only to be serving as a tourist attraction,” the user wrote of the road, which is located in a Chongqing tourist area called “Foreign Street Park.”

Still another wondered whether the road would make anything safer. “Is the goal here to encourage still more people to use their cellphones while walking?”

via Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

11/06/2014

Mozilla to Sell $25 Smartphones in India and Indonesia – India Real Time – WSJ

Smartphones as cheap as $25 powered by Mozilla Corp.’s software will be available in India and Indonesia later this year, an executive said.

Mozilla has been pitching its Firefox mobile operating system for low-cost smartphones in emerging markets as an alternative to Google Inc.’s Android and iOS from Apple Inc. through partnerships with major handset vendors, carriers and assemblers since July.

The U. S-based company has collaborated with four handset makers such as ZTE Corp.000063.SZ +1.32% , LG Electronics Co. 066570.SE +0.13% and five wireless carriers including Telefonica SA, TEF.MC -0.16% Deutsche Telekom AG DTE.XE -0.59% ,America Movil SAB AMX.MX -0.30% to launch five Firefox-powered smartphones in Europe and Latin America so far.

But the price for these smartphones are above US$60 and are still too expensive for most consumers in India and other Southeast Asian countries, Mozilla Chief Operating Officer Gong Li said in an interview on the sidelines of the Mobile Asia Expo.

“One U.S. dollar means a lot of things to consumers in emerging countries. It’s difficult to sell smartphones that cost more than US$50 in those markets,” he said.

To tap the next billion first-time smartphone users, Mozilla is collaborating with Chinese chip maker Spreadtrum Communications Inc. to unveil a low-cost chipset that enables smartphones to be priced at $25 this year.

“With a $25 price tag, there is no price gap between a smartphone and a feature phone. This attractive price point would help motivate feature phone users to switch to smartphones,” said Mr. Gong.

via Mozilla to Sell $25 Smartphones in India and Indonesia – India Real Time – WSJ.

19/04/2014

India’s Mobile Marketers Try Phone Calls to Reach Rural Consumers – Businessweek

In many parts of the world, businesses relentlessly market to customers via their Web-connected smartphones, slipping pitches into everything from interactive games to graphics-laden productivity apps. Not so in rural India: To better reach the country’s 833 million villagers, Unilever (UL) is delivering free Bollywood music to their basic cell phones via old-fashioned phone calls.

In India, Mobile Ads Mean Phone Calls

Between the popular tunes and cheesy jokes presented during the 15-minute recorded programs served up by Unilever’s mobile phone music service, users listen to four product ads. Consumers are biting: In March, at least 2 million people subscribed to the free service available in two states, says Anaheeta Goenka, executive director of Lowe Lintas & Partners, the agency handling the campaign for the world’s second-biggest consumer company. The service expanded to Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, on March 31.

Companies from Unilever to PepsiCo (PEP) to Mondelēz International (MDLZ) are turning to mobile campaigns to win over consumers who live in locales where cable television or even newspapers may have limited reach. In a country where most people don’t live in big cities and 88 percent of phones aren’t smart, the tuneful approach makes sense because rural spending growth now exceeds that of India’s urban centers. And mobile phone ads cost less and are more targeted than mass media campaigns on the subcontinent.

via India’s Mobile Marketers Try Phone Calls to Reach Rural Consumers – Businessweek.

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