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Mukesh Ambani at NILF 2017 – Trump can be blessing in disguise

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Neelam Dhawan, VP, HP and Chair NILF 2017, introduced Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance industries, as the founder of India’s fastest growing startup (Jio).

The Past

In his words, the next 20 years will witness greater achievements than what humans have seen in the last three centuries. He reminisced about the 90s when Pramod Mahajan used to say that India was famous for 2 things – IT & Duty. On that note, he congratulated the Indian IT industry for what it has achieved over the last 2 decades. The industry’s revenue, 100 million USD then, and 154 billion USD seen today, underscores India’s success in the global arena.

These are most exciting times in the history of human civilization. The First Industrial Revolution was about coal and steam which led to the mechanization of production. The Second Industrial Revolution saw electricity, power and oil provide the tools for mass production and distribution. The Third Industrial Revolution was about automation, software which worked in silos but led to increased efficiency & productivity. And now, what is being touted as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is about the convergence of digital, physical and biological science. The shift is going to be nothing like what was have experienced before, and right now humans are on the verge of seeing seismic change. This convergence will lead to problems being solved in the shortest time imaginable, which brings us to the idea – “the next 20 years will witness greater achievements than what has been in the last three centuries.”

Data is the New Oil

Quite simply, data is a resource. And this marks the beginning of the new era. The 1.3 billion people that we have including the resultant data generated, is our competitive advantage. This convergence is happening, even as you read, and to leverage its full potential India needs a robust digital infrastructure in place. This is what Jio is all about – to provide the avowed infrastructure. In 2015, India ranked 155 in terms of Mobile Broadband access. Ambani is confident that with Jio, India will soon be amongst the top 10, globally.

Every Indian has the right to live his / her life as he wants to, and to make that possible, data is the oxygen of a digital economy. Jio is aimed at addressing the challenges of broadband access in terms of scarcity, affordability including quality. So far the response has been overwhelming. We are at the bleeding edge of technology and Indians can outperform rest of the world. Jio aims to create a networking platform for 95% of the Indian population to realise this vision.

Re-imagine  

On a lighter vein, he remarked that President Trump may actually prove to be a boon for India. Perhaps this is an opportunity to build partnerships to foster a digital eco-system and solve the country’s problems. The best and the brightest may finally focus on building solutions for India. The domestic market opportunity is simply huge, when seen from that standpoint. 

Planet of apps – mobile computing is the defining technology of this century including the rapid progress seen in AI, Machine Learning, Connectivity, Blockchains and few others. He believes that millions of Indians will have easy access to internet to open up a whole new world of services, erstwhile not possible. In turn, this will also improve the quality of services.

On millennials, he made an interesting observation. In a world where we increasingly engage with technology, at some point in time we will have to realise that technology has to adjust to humans and not the other way around. He also spoke about Aadhar and its unique contribution to nation building – unparalleled in its scope. The whole idea of a unique identification number for every Indian was in itself disruptive, and provides bulwark for the entire ecosystem. He also mentioned about Digital Payments and set a timeline of 12 – 18 months by which he expects huge growth.

The Value Proposition for India 

The nation’s biggest strength lay in its openness. An ecosystem which encourages partnerships. Notwithstanding the mammoth-sized challenges (including those of data security) that we have, but the focus must remain on developmental goals.

It is not enough to come out with the right solutions only. It would be more impactful to be able to articulate the right problems that should be addressed. If entrepreneurs focussed on societal value, financial returns would most certainly follow, as a by-product. It is important to never give up. His three final takeaways: treat investor’s money more importantly than your own; build a strong team and align goals, and, remain optimistic.

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