Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani’s address to shareholders on Wednesday was perhaps the most detailed ever in terms of timelines and future course of action as far as RIL’s much-anticipated fourth-generation (4G) broadband wireless business is concerned.
RIL had acquired Infotel Broadband Services, the sole pan-India winner of 4G spectrum in a government auction, in June 2010 for R4,800 crore. The company was later renamed Reliance Jio Infocomm. Four years later, RIL is yet to roll out 4G products and services, though it has been periodically tying up with vendors and other strategic partners for network, device ecosystem and other backend infrastructure.
“The year 2015 will see the phased launch of Reliance Jio across India,” Ambani said.
“Limited field trials are already underway…expanded field trials will commence in August across multiple cities and these trials would continue through till the end of 2014 and early part of 2015. The objective is to ensure that everything that we offer is future-proof and world-class.”
During his speech, Ambani called Reliance Jio a “R70,000 crore-initiative” indicating that RIL is investing more in its new telecom business than what was estimated. From the outset, Reliance Jio will cover all states in India, with 5,000 towns and cities and 215,000 villages, Ambani said.
Regarding retail, RIL’s other consumer-facing venture, Ambani said he was confident that the division would double its revenues every three to four years.
Ambani also answered the company’s detractors who had levelled various allegations of wrongdoing (especially in reference to its oil and gas operations) against it. A number of these allegations came from political parties like the Aam Aadmi Party and the Communist Party of India.
“Last year, we saw several false allegations, outright lies and half-truths against this business (oil and gas),” Ambani said.
“We addressed all of the allegations with the truth and facts proactively. We have with your support (the shareholders) weathered these ill-informed campaigns.”
This year’s AGM was also significant for RIL as it saw another generation shift in the Ambani family’s presence on the RIL board. RIL’s late founder Dhirubhai Ambani’s elder brother, Ramnikbhai Ambani, retired from the conglomerate’s board at the age of 90. Ramnikbhai, along with Dhirubhai, was instrumental in setting up RIL’s textiles business — a sort of stepping stone towards the backward integration across the energy chain that RIL has achieved.
Nita on board
On the other hand, Mukesh Ambani’s wife Nita Ambani was elected as a director on