Jio, Microsoft team up for digital transformation alliance


Business, Companies

Reliance's Mukesh Ambani unveiled promised to make connectivity infrastructure free for nascent stage firms.

Jio will also invest and financially support those startups that have the potential to address India's big needs in agriculture, healthcare, education and skill development which will boost the creation of new livelihoods, said Reliance's Mukesh Ambani. (Photo: File)

Mumbai: Reliance Jio on Monday announced long-term alliance with Microsoft, as part of which Jio will set up a network of large data centers across India, and the tech giant will deploy 'Azure' cloud platform in these centers to support offerings.

Addressing Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) 42nd Annual General Meeting (AGM), Chairman Mukesh Ambani unveiled a slew of initiatives for startups and small and medium businesses and promised to make connectivity infrastructure free for nascent stage firms.

"You may know that 80 per cent of the cost of running a startup goes towards cloud and connectivity infrastructure. I want to announce today that Jio is ready to take away this cost by making the connectivity and cloud infrastructure absolutely free for budding startups," Ambani said.

He advised startups to register for their custom-designed package on from January 1, 2020.

"Jio will also invest and financially support those startups that have the potential to address India's big needs in agriculture, healthcare, education and skill development which will boost the creation of new livelihoods," he said.

Describing micro, small and medium businesses as "bedrock" of Indian economy, Ambani estimated that connectivity, productivity and automation tools costs a micro and small business anywhere between Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000 per month at present. For a similar service, customers abroad pay over USD 1,000 a month.

"Today, we are taking the bold step of giving these applications along with our connectivity to small businesses for one-tenth the cost starting at Rs 1,500 per month. Now, all small business will have access to unlimited enterprise-grade voice and data services, video conferencing, security solutions, marketing and sales solutions and many more productivity tools that will help them run their business efficiently and at par with larger enterprises," he said.

The medium and larger businesses shell out between Rs 3–5 lakh a month for which the company is offering custom-designed plans with similar value benefits, he added.

A joint statement outlining the contours of the Jio-Microsoft alliance said the partnership aims to accelerate digital transformation in the country.

The alliance combines capabilities of both the companies to offer a set of solutions comprising connectivity, computing, storage solutions, and other technology services and applications required by Indian businesses, and will span the broad Reliance Industries ecosystem, including its existing and new businesses.

"We have an incredible opportunity to apply advances in technology to help organisations across India innovate and grow," Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella said in the statement.

The combination of Jio's connectivity and digital solutions with Azure, Azure AI and Office 365 will bring powerful tools and platforms for compute, storage, productivity to millions of businesses in the country, he added.

Under the agreement, Jio will provide its workforce with cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools available with Microsoft 365 and migrate its non-network applications to the Azure cloud platform.

"Jio's connectivity infrastructure...will promote the adoption of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform within its growing ecosystem of startups, as part of Jio's cloud-first strategy," the statement said.

Further, Jio will set up data centers in locations across India, consisting of computing, storage and networking capabilities, and Microsoft will deploy its Azure platform in these data centers to support Jio's offerings.

The first two data centers, which can house IT equipment consuming up to 7.5 MW of power, will come up in Gujarat and Maharashtra, and are targeted to be fully operational in 2020.

"Jio will leverage the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to develop innovative cloud solutions focused on the needs of Indian businesses. Through these Jio-developed solutions...Indian startups will have access to efficient and affordable cloud infrastructure and platform services, enabling them to develop innovative products and services faster and more cost-effectively," the statement said.

Also, Small and medium businesses in India will have access to cloud-based productivity, collaboration and business applications, including Office 365.

"Jio will be executing on its vision of integrated speech and computer vision solutions for Indian customers by working together with Microsoft to develop solutions that support major Indian languages and dialects, which will promote the adoption of technology across all cross-sections of Indian society," it added.

Ambani also said that in the next 12 months, Jio will install across India, one of the largest blockchain networks in the world.

"Using blockchain we can deliver unprecedented security, trust, automation and efficiency to almost any type of transaction. This is a vital capability for India especially for modernising our supply chains for agricultural produce and other goods which form the lifeblood of our economy," he said.

Data is wealth and Indian wealth must remain in India, Ambani asserted.

"...using Blockchain, we also have an opportunity to invent a brand-new model for data privacy where Indian data especially customer data is owned and controlled through technology by the Indian people and not by corporates, especially global corporations," he said.