Jio Bharat Phone: Time for advertisers to dial up digital marketing

The 4G-enabled feature phone is going to be a game changer as advertisers will get access to a whole new tier of consumers coming online, say experts

by Shantanu David
Published - July 17, 2023
4 minutes To Read
Jio Bharat Phone: Time for advertisers to dial up digital marketing

The Jio Revolution in 2016 undoubtedly catapulted India from being a fast-growing digital market to one where purveyors of digital offerings had to catch up with the digital adoption rate. Now, with the release of the Jio Bharat Phone, a product made in India in partnership with Karbon, and priced at a startling Rs 999, is set to shift the paradigm again.

The 4G-enabled feature phone includes SD card support of up to 128 GB and a 1000 mAh battery, as well as features like HD calling, call recording, UPI payments, and OTT services. In order to cater to the phone’s TG, many of whom will be first time users of mobile internet, Jio simultaneously introduced a reasonable data pack called the Jio Bharat Mobile Plan.

Ankit Banga, CBO, FCB/SIX India, points out that Jio has played a crucial role in positioning India as the second-largest country of internet users, reshaping the digital media landscape by making data more affordable.

“The launch of the Jio Bharat 4G feature phone will not only make data viable but also accessible to an untapped market of 250 million underserved 2G users, further expanding internet penetration. This presents a unique opportunity for advertisers to engage with a new wave of customers,” he says.

A joint report by industry body IAMAI and market data analytics firm Kantar released in May stated that the active internet base in India is expected to grow to 900 million by 2025, with the growth being pushed by rural India.

"Urban India, with approximately 71 per cent internet penetration witnessed only 6 per cent growth, with much of the overall gain in numbers coming from rural India which witnessed 14 per cent growth rate over the past one year. It is estimated that 56 per cent of all new internet users in India will be from rural India by 2025," the report said.

And given that India is firmly a mobile-first market, thanks to the twin drivers of cheap data and devices, Jio’s Rs 999 offering is going to be a game changer in more ways than one, as advertisers will get access to a whole new tier of consumers coming online.

Sanju Menon, Chief Operating Officer at Wondrlab India notes that advertisers have always struggled to reach the segment of consumers that are now going to be welcomed into the digital world. “The dependency on television for reach is going to reduce – and attribution on spends are going to become less of a challenge.”

Indeed, Mansi Shah, Director, Brand Planning and New Business at Famous Innovations, is not worried about the mindset or expectations. “With them having the access to some of these apps and a camera phone, advertisers will be able to connect with them in much more engaging and meaningful ways, rather than earlier a more one way approach. They will be able to do micro targeting even for this audience and utilise their marketing budgets more effectively.”

Banga believes that to succeed, advertisers should prioritize strategies that focus on simplicity, localized/vernacular content, and education, ensuring seamless experiences for these users. By guiding and empowering them on their online journey, brands can establish trust, provide value, and cultivate lasting relationships in this rapidly evolving digital landscape.

“All future communication strategies will not be a 2-India strategy, but one that is going to be platform first. The accessibility will also help in driving more tactical and contextual narratives, and there will be an opportunity of creating more desire,” says Menon, adding that the brand appointments will cease from being restricted to once or twice a year, and will now become always-on.

That being said, Jio still may have some challenges, the first being that the phone will only support the Jio App Store, eschewing apps available on Android and Apple’s stores, meaning no FB, Insta, Twitter, etc.

“While prima facie it looks like it could be limiting, it is an attractive offering for a current 2G user who will not find a competing alternative at this price point. With Jio Cinema increasingly buying rights for more and more popular content like important cricket leagues, movies and TV shows, a large number of this audience watching this content will become a sizable audience for brands wanting to target them,” asserts Shah, bringing us nicely to the second part of this story. Stay tuned.