The JioPhone Next, which runs on the Pragati OS custom-made Android operating system and is targeted at first-time internet users, offers Google a model that can be used to develop similar products for other emerging markets, according to Sanjay Gupta, country head, Google India.
“We are committed to working with Jio on it ( JioPhone Next) and test it out in India. But, if there is an opportunity to take it beyond India, the answer is yes,” he said in an exclusive interview with ET.
Google will have a much sharper view on the proposal to take the idea global in the next four to eight quarters as the supply chain stabilises and the response in the market is clearer, Gupta added.
Terming the launch of the JioPhone Next built on Pragati OS as a “big game changer” as it makes the “internet more accessible,” Gupta said it brought to light the Jio-Google partnership and made the internet accessible to the people who can’t afford a smartphone at Rs. 15,000 rupees.”
This was also the first investment by Google out of the $10 billion India Digitisation Fund that it announced last year.
Reliance Jio did not reply to ET’s email queries on the development.
India has been at the forefront of product development for the American technology giant with several new products developed for a low-bandwidth and multilingual country have been scaled up globally. This includes the successful payment product –Google Tez (now Google Pay) as well as others like Offline Maps and Files Go.
“Android and Android Gohave been important capabilities that Google has, and they keep partnering with different OEMs to keep finding solutions which are meaningful for the new internet,” Gupta said.
Market estimates suggest that internet penetration will rise sharply over the next five years from 35-40% to 60-70%, as the number of smartphone users have grown during the pandemic increasing to 125 million new users in the last four quarters, compared to addition of about 50 million new smartphone users every year in the pre-pandemic era.
“The next wave of smartphone users will come from people who can’t afford a very high-cost phone. Many new users who come in the next two to three years would be looking for a much different value versus price equation,” Gupta said.
Pragati OS, powered by Android, has been built specifically for India and is at the heart of the JioPhone Next. The phone can be bought at an upfront payment of Rs 6,499 or through an 18- to 24-month equated monthly instalment (EMI) plan.
The OS has been developed by engineers of both Jio and Google, with an objective of offering a seamless experience at affordable cost. The JioPhone Next is being made by UTL Neolync, which was approved under the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme.
UTL Neolync is a joint venture between Bangalore-based UTL Group and Neolync Solution.
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL)’s wholly owned subsidiary Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Ltd invested Rs 20 crore (about $2.7 million) in Neolync Solutions earlier this month.