Billionaire Mukesh Ambani Sees Digital Economy Helping Double Incomes in India
(Bloomberg) -- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc.’s chief executive officer, hopes the social media giant and Reliance Industries Ltd. can together transform India’s digital payments landscape, replicating the latter’s success in disrupting the telecom sector.
Zuckerberg in an online event mentioned Dhirubhai Ambani, Reliance’s late founder, who he said had envisioned phone calls in India as cheap as postcards, priced at less than a cent then. His son Mukesh Ambani’s ability to make that wish come true has inspired him, Zuckerberg said.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do with messaging…and hopefully we can do that together with payments,” Zuckerberg told Ambani during the event.
The telecom unit helmed by Ambani, Asia’s richest man, disrupted the sector in 2016 when it entered with free calls and dirt-cheap data tariffs, forcing rivals to quit, merge or go bankrupt while it became country’s top wireless carrier over time. Ambani and Zuckerberg are now betting big on India as its billion-plus consumers get hooked on their smartphones and increasingly rely on it for everything from entertainment and grocery purchases to online money transfers.
Raking Up Wins
The American social media firm invested $5.7 billion for a 9.99% stake in Ambani’s digital venture in April, triggering a flurry of other stake sales. It also finally got approval for the roll-out in November this year to operate its WhatsApp payments service in India after struggling for years to win a permit.
Ambani expects India’s economy to scale the league tables and per capita income to more than double to $5,000, as the country transforms into a digital powerhouse.
“I firmly believe that in the next two decades, India will grow to be among the top three economies in the world,” Ambani said at the same event. “But more importantly, it will become a premier digital society.”
For Facebook, there’s no partner more capable than Ambani’s refining-to-retail conglomerate to help dominate this nascent but growing market.
“A big part of why I was excited to partner with you is, there are not many people around the world who’ve just gone industry after industry and revolutionized them and improved them, and continue to do it,” Zuckerberg told Ambani.
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