India, Jio, and the Four Internets
Ben Thompson is one of the more insightful commentators on the strategy aspects of technology. In this piece, he highlights how Jio Platforms is likely to achieve something that no telecom operator in the world has managed to i.e, adding a layer of profitable services to better monetise its high cost network infrastructure. More importantly, he links the world of technology to geopolitics as data becomes a key ‘weapon’ in conflicts. This piece somewhat extends the line of thought Vibhu Arya shares in his blog we featured last week. Arya argued how India is selling itself short on the digital economy front unlike China which indigenised its internet. Ben seems to disagree and instead believes with Facebook and Google’s investments in Jio, India has retained a share of the spoils whilst at the same time forging a critical axis with the US from a geopolitical perspective, especially given the escalating tensions with China.
“Jio is determined to achieve the dream that has long eluded telecom providers in other countries: moving up the stack from fixed-cost infrastructure to high-margin services. What gives Jio a chance are three important differences from telecom efforts in other markets:
First, Jio has created a huge portion of its addressable market; whereas a Verizon in the U.S., or a NTT DoCoMo in Japan was seeking to offer services on top of a competitive telecom market, Jio is the only option for a huge number of Indians (and for those that have options, Jio is so much cheaper because of its IP-based network that it can afford the extra costs).
Second, instead of seeking to usurp companies like Facebook or Google that already have major marketshare in India, Jio is partnering with them.
Third, Jio is positioning itself as an Indian champion, and the lynchpin of the Indian model.
…In a Jio-mediated market it is U.S. tech companies that make less than they would have, and not only does India collect more taxes along the way, Jio’s vision of being a national champion abroad could be a huge win for India in the long run.
…Not only is it unreasonable and disrespectful for the U.S. to expect India to be some sort of vassal state technologically speaking, it is actually a good thing to not only have a counterweight to China geographically, but also a counterweight amongst developing countries specifically. Jio is considering problem-spaces that U.S. tech companies are all too often ignorant of, which matters not simply for India but also for much of the rest of the world.
Still, Facebook, Google, Intel, Qualcomm, et al should proceed with their eyes wide-open: they are very much a means to an end for a company and a country that is on its own path. That is not to say these investments are not a good idea — I think they are — but India’s path is perhaps a more populist and nationalistic one than many Americans would prefer. Still, it is less antagonistic to Western liberalism than the Chinese Communist Party, and again, an important counterweight.”