Mukesh Ambani becomes a fan of online games; Reliance Jio’s new gameplan ‘bigger than movies, music’

Prachi Gupta

RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani might have just given a glimpse into Reliance Jio's next big bet — online gaming. Speaking to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella this week, Mukesh Ambani said that online gaming would be bigger than many entertainment mediums put together in his home market. "There is a huge potential" for gaming to grow in India, Mukesh Ambani said. "Gaming will be bigger than music, movies and television shows put together," he added. While the gaming sector is only in its nascent stage, at best, Mukesh Ambani said that there is a huge opportunity for growth thanks to increasing penetration of the internet in the country.

Earlier, in 2019, Reliance Jio had announced its Jio Fiber set-top box to support "console-like" gaming, saying that it will enable newer entertainment and gaming experience. Akash Ambani and Isha Ambani, Directors of Reliance Jio, also gave a demonstration of the major gaming capabilities of the Jio Set-Top Box. "This will be at par with the leading gaming platforms globally," Akash Ambani said, who also played FIFA 19 on stage to highlight that the set-top box supports multiplayer gaming.

Evolution of Jio as a content player

From debuting as a telecom disruptor to now being a major player in India's entertainment industry, Reliance Jio has grown by backward and forward integration, and this time might be no different. After Reliance Jio's launch in 2016, the next building block for the company was its entry in content via music, movies and TV shows. To that extent, Jio now owns its own music and movie streaming platforms — JioSaavn and JioMovies; its own movie production arm Studio 18 and its own web show producer AltBalaji. On the day of Jio set-top box launch, Mukesh Ambani had announced that Reliance Studios will release one movie every week under 'First Day, First show' offering of Jio set-top box. 

Guess who else is a fan of online gaming

Mukesh Ambani is not the only billionaire who has shown faith in the potential of online gaming. Earlier, investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala picked up a stake in the gaming company Nazara Technologies. The deal was pegged around Rs 180 crore and is the first bet of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala on India's digital space. Nazara runs popular titles such as Chhota Bheem and Virat Cricket. "I am always on the lookout for promising companies which are leaders in high-growth verticals. Nazara has a consistent track record of delivering profits, cash flows, along with efficient use of capital and high RoE. I see growth potential in the company," Rakesh Jhunjhunwala said in 2017 at the time of the deal.

The growth of India's online gaming sector is levered by affordable smartphones and internet penetration in the country. Reliance Jio is seen as the major reason behind bringing internet rates in the country to a dramatically low level. Talking about how internet rates have come down from Rs 300-500 per GB in pre-Jio days to Rs 12-14 per GB now, Mukesh Ambani said that due to reduction in data prices, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India has become a people's movement now.