It’s a win-win situation for India’s richest man and his company. Given the scenario now, with most major industrialists facing debt/liquidity issues, Reliance Industries Ltd may have done a smart thing in selling a 20 per cent stake in its refining and petrochemical business, while also tying up with BP for the fuel retail business for close to $1 billion FDI. Saudi Aramco has a voracious appetite for India as it is a country where the consumption of the fossil fuel is rising. But Reliance’s greater gain is the paring of its ballooning debt caused by the way the company disrupted the mobile telephony and Internet connectivity market with free services. The company brought about a paradigm shift in the way the average Indian uses his cellphone for entertainment and communication.
It’s moot whether a rating downgrade for Reliance was the trigger for deals that were in the pipeline. What it may do is to smoothen the path for Reliance to be a game-changer in the home entertainment segment, where it could establish its dominance as it did in telecom by disrupting the existing business and turning the segment on its head with novel practices. With deep pockets, Jio Fiber is well placed to replicate the gathering of customers with deep discounts and freebies, and signing them up for life. The private sector behemoth's predatory pricing practices might be frowned upon, but the sheer imagination of attracting millions first is a revelation in terms of very old business acumen coupled with the harnessing of the most modern technology.