In a fresh expansion bid in India, global technology major Google plans to partner top Indian telecom majors to solve customer requirements. The US internet co that is looking at tie-ups with handset makers, telecom operators and developers has already a tie-up with Reliance Jio Infocomm.
“We will be expecting more partnerships like the one with Jio, hopefully, as we find more gaps in our portfolio in the market. What we are trying to figure out is to solve market needs by ourselves at Google or can we have the power of compounding by working with a local partner,” said Ram Papatla, engineering lead (India), Android.
According to Papatla, the evaluation criteria for partnerships is mostly based on problems that Google wants to solve for India. The framework for the JioPhone has been primarily about bridging the affordability gap and making benefits a little bit simpler, besides coupling it with the power of network and services of Jio to make the offering “interesting”.
“So, we look at those opportunities over the next few months and, hopefully, we will have more announcements,” he said.
Google and Reliance Jio have co-developed an affordable smartphone, the JioPhone Next, which is powered by Android-based Pragati OS. Pragati OS is an extension to Google’s Android operating system that features new optimisations specific to the JioPhone Next smartphone, said Papatla.
“We basically optimised Android so it appeals to users… as with any optimisations we do, we need to first get a cheap product-market fit and need to achieve the scale and need to make sure we are confident. We also want to make sure we don’t create confusion in both the OEM (original equipment manufacturers) and the developer ecosystem. The focus on Pragati OS is to make it interesting for India,” Papatla said.
For the Pragati OS, Google has adopted a different approach as compared to its Android One programme, wherein it partnered with various device markers in India and in other markets.
“With Jio, we went with a different approach as compared to Android One even though the program was an inspiration and those lesions are being used and that’s been very beneficial,” Papatla said, adding that the Jio partnership started with more user focus. “It is more about the collective value proposition, optimisations beyond making sure that the OS is fresh and has clean experience.”
The smartphone was launched just before Diwali with the aim of helping Reliance Jio target bulk of India’s 300 million-plus feature phone users. The device is priced at Rs 6,499 but can also be bought for an upfront payment of Rs 1,999 and a processing fee of Rs 500, with the rest to be paid in monthly instalments of 18 or 24 months.
“One of the most important drivers for affordability is financing options. We have seen various schemes in India that are creative. We can learn a lot from what Jio has done in terms of financial options. This is an area where Google can take a lead but it is too early in the space,” said Papatla.