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Indian Tycoon Launches A Super-Cheap Phone Costing $18

India’s richest man is launching a phone that aims to be almost as cheap as a coffee and muffin.

Billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani is launching an internet-connected phone that will cost $US12 ($A18), says a report in The Financial Times.

While most of the world’s population have mobile phones, many in poorer regions still miss out. 

Statista reports that in 2023, 86.11 per cent of people globally possess a smartphone. If you add in mobile phones, the figure is 91.21 per cent. That leaves around 693 million people on the planet phoneless.

The Financial Times reports that Ambani’s “Jio Bharat” phone is a non-smartphone feature phone that aims to reach 250 million people in India without a handset. It says those 250 million people are still trapped in the 2G era at a time the rest of the world is experiencing a 5G revolution.

Ambani, who is rated as the world’s 13th richest person, chairs and is managing director of Reliance Industries Limited, a company established by his father that began trading commodities, but moved into everything from textiles to petrochemicals and energy, and also the telecom industry in 1996.

Whether philanthropy is the sole motivation for Ambani’s move is hard to say. Some cynics claim it is a hard-headed move to convert the remaining population into paying phone customers.

But philanthropy is part of the Ambani mantra. Ambani’s wife, Nita, heads the associated Reliance Foundation, which bills her as a fully fledged philanthropist and a champion of women and children’s rights, according to the foundation’s website.

“On International Women’s Day 2021, she launched an inclusive and collaborative digital movement for women called Her Circle,” the website says. It says she is also the owner of Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and founder chairperson of Football Sports development Limited, which launched the Indian Super League.

Mukesh Ambani who also runs a media venture called Viacom18 which is supported by James Murdoch. In April 2022, Forbes reported that Murdoch’s Bodhi Tree invested $US1.8 billion in Viacom18.


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