The Jio-fication of India

“In the year since it launched, Jio has acquired over 100 million users — many connecting to the mobile internet for the first time in their lives. To give some context, this effectively makes Jio that fastest adopted technology in human history.”

Just over a year ago, one of the biggest companies in India — Reliance Industries — did something incredibly brash and bold: It launched its own mobile network called Jio, despite having no previous experience in the telecoms sector. (At the time, its strengths were in textiles, energy, and retail).

Since then, it has led to what can only be described as a mobile revolution in India, one that will only accelerate in 2018. What did it do that was so dramatic? It effectively offered unlimited mobile data to all its users for a nine-month trial period — absolutely free. Since that trial period ended, it has continued to offer unlimited data packages for about $6 a month.

I wrote a Nieman Lab prediction a couple of years ago looking at how I thought India’s digital media sector would grow. The thing I did not anticipate was the massive impact that a mobile operator like Jio would have just a short time later and how disruptive that would be in terms of digital media consumption on mobile.

In the year since it launched, Jio has acquired over 100 million users — many connecting to the mobile internet for the first time in their lives. To give some context, this effectively makes Jio the fastest adopted technology in human history — acquiring its first 100 million users at a faster rate than Facebook, WhatsApp, or Snapchat.

There have been stories of young Indians using 20 GB of data a day (yes, a day) as they gorged on the ability to watch, download, and share movies, music, and TV on their phones at no cost.

In March, I visited a number of colleges across India and I asked journalism classes — often with students from poor backgrounds — how many had a mobile phone. Nearly all put their hands up. I then asked them which mobile operator they were using. They all said Jio. If I had visited them just a year previously, I would have been surprised if as many as half put up their hands for having a mobile phone with internet connection.

That is the impact that Jio is making across India — not just with young people, but also the first wave of the “next billion” users who are coming online for the first time through a cheap smartphone purchase, often in the more rural parts of the country. Once Jio has them, it is unlikely to lose many of them.

Jio has taken the Facebook playbook and given it rocket boosters. It’s strategy is to aggressively grow its user base by massively subsidising them through income from the other profitable parts of the Reliance group, forcing other mobile operators to drop their prices in a bid to try and hold on to their customers.

Unlike many mobile operators in the West — which have sometimes been criticised for lacking strategic vision and have become “dumb pipes” for data distribution, Jio has moved quickly into media distribution and creating its own ecosystem for content discovery.

It’s Jio Express chat app already allows its users to get a feed of content, including news (disclosure: the BBC in India, where I work, has a content distribution partnership with Jio). It also has its own TV service, where users can stream a number of satellite channels straight onto their phones for minimal cost. It will also soon be launching a home broadband service that is likely to quickly eat into that market too.

At the start of 2018, the next phase of the Jio story begins: the JioPhone, which was announced earlier in the summer, will go on sale. It will become the cheapest smartphone in India at 1500 rupees (approximately $20). But that isn’t all — anyone who buys it will be able to return it after three years and get their money back in full, effectively making it free. This is likely to lead to a huge increase in the smartphone userbase in India, pushing it past 500 million. For good or bad, Jio is going to have a big market share among these users — and the inevitable benefits of that scale that it will then be able to take advantage of.

So while you may have heard of the impact the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp have made in India, it’s entirely possible that by the end of 2018, there will be more users of Jio in India than there will users of both those platforms combined. Mobile internet in India will become a giant battleground, the likes of which we will not have seen anywhere in the world before.

Trushar Barot is the digital launch editor of Indian-language news services for the BBC in India.

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Jake Levine   The return to now

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Paul Ford   Go global

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Burt Herman   Things get real

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global