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Last month, Jio Platforms, the digital arm of Reliance Industries, announced the launch of ‘Platfom’—a TikTok-like short-form video app in India.
With Platfom, Reliance wants to cater to the void left by TikTok in India. Despite being banned in India, it remains the most downloaded app in the world. TikTok’s success is built upon a robust recommendation system and its ability to tend to the digital needs of the younger generation.
Although many players still exist in this space, notably ‘Instagram Reels’ and ‘YouTube Shorts’, Reliance seems confident in their bid with Platfom. But, can they replicate TikTok’s success in India? The track record so far says otherwise.
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Underwhelming track record
Amid the pandemic, video conferencing tools like ‘Zoom’ have become very popular. In 2020, Reliance launched ‘JioMeet’ as an alternative to Zoom. However, upon its launch, JioMeet was heavily ridiculed for its uncanny resemblance to Zoom’s platform, with several calling it a rip-off in plain sight.
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Much like Jio, Reliance marketed JioMeet as a free product. Services that you had to pay for at Zoom were available for free at JioMeet. However, it failed to impact the video conferencing space in the way it had hoped to. Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams remain the most popular video conferencing platforms in India.
Similarly, ‘JioMart’ was another initiative by Reliance that failed to take off. Launched in 2019, JioMart was meant to disrupt how people bought groceries; however, currently, it has a very limited presence in the target space despite being available in more than 200 cities in India. Now, Reliance is teaming up with WhatsApp in the hopes of giving their platform a much-needed boost.
Further, ‘JioCinema’, the OTT platform streaming the FIFA World Cup 2022, was heavily criticised as users experienced heavy lags and other issues on the first day of streaming. However, since then, JioCinema has managed to fix some bugs and provide users with a seamless streaming experience.
Considering the track records of various Reliance initiatives following Jio, it makes us wonder if Platfom will fare well. Whether Reliance has the bandwidth to establish Platfom as one of the top short video platforms in India remains to be seen.
Yet an optimistic approach
Nonetheless, it has not stopped Reliance from investing heavily in technology. Mukesh Ambani has also talked extensively about emerging technologies and his optimism is well supported by his investment strategy, especially in the field of AI.
In fact, some of its investments have fared well. In 2018, Reliance acquired an equity stake of 81.7% in Saavn India. In 2020, JioSaavn had a market share of 24%, higher than Spotify and Wynk Music, which both held a market share of 15%, according to Statista.
Reliance has also invested heavily in a wide range of technology companies in India. It acquired a 73% market share in edtech startup ‘Embibe’ in 2018. Ambani has also invested in hyperlocal delivery platform ‘Dunzo’, robotics startup ‘Addverb Technologies’, and conversational AI platform ‘Haptik’, among others.
In 2018, Reliance announced the launch of ‘JioInteract’, the world’s first AI-based brand engagement video platform. Led by Akash Ambani, the company started hiring professionals to build its emerging technology firm. Spearheaded by Akash Ambani, the ‘JioCoin project’ was responsible for building a team of young professionals.
Will Reliance succeed in Technology?
Reliance started as a polyester company and diversified into energy, petroleum, retail, chemicals, entertainment, telecom, mobile phones, and even financial services.
But the investments and acquisitions in the recent past indicate Reliance’s conscious efforts to pivot from its image of merely a petrochemical giant to a full-fledged digital enterprise.
Jio is a prime example that Reliance can diversify into a new vertical and find success. Ambani established Jio as the biggest telco in India and the third largest in the world. In a short span of time, Jio became a household name in India and Mukesh Ambani became the richest man in Asia.
Currently, Jio holds a market share of 35%, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). By utilising the revenues from its oil and gas subsidiaries and with predatory pricing rates, Jio managed to capture the telco market in India in a surprisingly short period of time.
However, technology is a whole different ball game. Capturing the video conferencing space or the social networking space requires a different bandwidth compared to capturing the telecom space. Can Reliance suffice in the tech domain? Only the future will tell.