Focus on tech - RIL’s first online AGM

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani stood behind a virtual podium and addressed the company’s 43rd – and first-ever online – annual general meeting on Wednesday. With a gigantic blue screen beaming information as his backdrop, Ambani made several big announcements to the 3.73 lakh shareholders who had logged in. Despite the announcements, RIL’s shares fell by 6.15 per cent on Wednesday.

The first announcement was that Google will invest Rs.33,737 crore to buy a 7.73 per cent equity in Jio Platforms. The two companies will also collaborate to create an affordable Android-based smartphone, even as Jio readies 5G capability that will be rolled out as soon as the spectrum is made available.

Talking about the deal, Ambani said, “We welcome Google on board and are excited about our partnership for what it can deliver to Indians, from universalising internet usage to deepening the new digital economy and providing a prime mover to India’s economic growth. Together, we hope to play a strong facilitative role in the transformative journey of building a new, digital India.”

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said of the partnership, “The pace and scale of digital transformation in India is hugely inspiring for us and reinforces our view that building products for India first helps us build better products for users everywhere….I am excited that our joint collaboration will focus on increasing access for hundreds of millions of Indians who don’t currently own a smartphone while improving the mobile experience for all.”

The Ambani children Akash and Isha, along with RIL president Kiran Thomas, also took the podium to announce several nextgen tech initiatives, some of which are aimed at facilitating the new normal of working or studying from home. Jio Glass, a mixed reality eyewear solution will help teachers and students to engage in a virtual 3D classroom with enhanced imaging capabilities, or enable work meetings remotely with the use of holographic images and interactivity. The younger Ambanis also unveiled plans for Jio TV Plus, a content aggregator that will bring several OTT platforms and TV channels together; an integrated healthcare system under the Jio Health Platform and the ‘made in India’ 5G capability.

Mukesh Ambani also revealed plans for a retail push, under JioMart, that will help transform kirana stores (to make them more akin to mini-marts) and help them connect with customers via WhatsApp and other tech. He added that Reliance would work with start-ups to inculcate and promote ‘made in India’ opportunities. Ambani’s announcement that the deal with Saudi Aramco in the oil-to-chemicals business has not progressed as expected, because of unforeseen conditions in the energy sector and Covid-19, may have put a dampener on things. “Nevertheless, we at Reliance value our over two-decade-long relationship with Saudi Aramco and are committed to a longterm partnership,” he added.

With the Google deal, RIL has locked down three of the Big Four of the tech world: In April, Facebook bought a 9.9 per cent stake in Jio Platforms for Rs 43,574 crore, and RIL already has a tie-up with Microsoft relating to the latter’s Azure cloud solutions.

The ‘family show’ concluded with Nita Ambani, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, taking the podium and pledging to bring the Games to India one day. She also elaborated on the company’s various philanthropic mandates and activities, This was the first time Nita, who heads Reliance Foundation, said she was addressing an AGM.

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