Mukesh Ambani’s speech at Reliance’s “intelligent” phone launch told us a lot about the corporate cultures and private–public sector relationship in India
The dependence of corporates on the government is characteristic not just of India, but of most developing economies. | R.V. Moorthy
With Jio Phone, some say, is born India’s Steve Jobs. On July 21, Mukesh Ambani, facing a crowd of thousands of Reliance shareholders, broke with Indian corporate tradition to announce the launch of Jio Phone. So what if Jio Phone is cursed with two alphabets too many to ever become the iPhone? India’s most powerful businessman made sure the stage was big, and the whole nation sat up and took notice. This was starkly reminiscent of Jobs’ launching of the iPhone and other Apple products.
And that’s where the similarity between Ambani and Jobs ends.
At the launch of the iPhone, Jobs, clad in sneakers, strolled on to the stage and paced around excitedly as he pitched the technical superiority of his product to each individual consumer.
When Ambani, suited up for the occasion, announced and spoke at the launch of Jio “intelligent” Phone, it would have been easy to mistake him for a political leader making an electoral pitch around his party’s role in the resurgence of the country.
The difference in the two speeches speaks volumes about the societal make-up,the corporate culture as well as the relationship between the private and public sector in their respective nations, India and the United States.
Sample some of Ambani’s statements:
“Sadly, a vast majority of mobile users in India are starved of data. This digital disempowerment and unfairness must end. Jio is committing to end it today.”
“JioPhone along with Jio’s disruptive tariff will unleash the power of Digital Life in the hands of 1.3 billion citizens of the largest democracy in the world.”
“Now, Jio will democratise the digital culture in India. Jio will be the greatest accelerator of the Bharat-India connectivity.”
“Reliance is also the highest income-tax payer in the private sector in India.”
Referring to the PM on five different occasions, Ambani piggybacked on India’s most influential political figure, just like a lot of Indian politicians do. An example:
“We have invested over Rs.2 lakh crore in our digital services and we are the largest contributor to the ‘Digital India’ vision of our Honourable Prime Minister.”