Reliance Jio’s LYF devices arrive on Amazon

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Mumbai: Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), has begun sales of its LYF branded devices online.

This week, RIL launched the first of the series, a smartphone called LYF Water 5, exclusively on online marketplace Amazon. The smartphone is priced at Rs.11,699.

The launch of Jio’s LYF phone is seen as a precursor to the roll-out of the company’s fourth-generation (4G) telecom services due for commercial launch this year.

The Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate has invested close to Rs.1.5 trillion in its telecom venture, Ambani had said in March, describing Reliance Jio as the world’s largest start-up.

Jio started selling LYF phones in January through Reliance Digital and Digital Express stores and on mylyf.com—the phone’s official website.

Now, the sales network is being expanded.

A senior RIL executive said the company is in talks with multiple online and brick-and-mortar retailers to sell LYF smartphones and smart television sets.

“We will have other tie-ups and more such devices also that we would be launching online. Some retail chains have expressed the desire to launch our phones and TVs,” said the executive on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The online and offline retailers could include the likes of Flipkart, Snapdeal, Sangeetha Mobiles, Croma Retail, Vijay Sales and Mobile Store, among others, the executive added.

In an email response, an RIL spokesperson said, “LYF devices are designed to enhance the digital experience of consumers, and our initiatives are directed towards bringing this differentiated experience to more and more users.”

LYF phones come in four variants: Fire, Earth, Water and Wind, which are sold in the price range of Rs.5,490 to Rs.19,499.

RIL has, till April, sold 1.5 million devices.

“Sales through online channels will augur well for RIL. It will not only help them garner some market share but also give them new users outside their own employee base. Though they have a robust retail network, selling devices online will help further sales,” said an analyst with a domestic brokerage tracking RIL. He did not wish to be identified as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

The RIL official quoted above added that going forward Jio will also launch tablets, dongles, cameras and electronic wearables under the LYF brand.

So far RIL has launched only smartphones and smart television sets under the brand. The television sets will work with Jio’s soon to be launched 4G network and content services.

Jio has expanded its trial service of Jio SIM cards on an invite-only basis.

Under the programme, a user gets a trial SIM card and an LYF phone if he has an invite from an RIL employee.

The service comes bundled with unlimited voice calls and 4G data for a period of three months.

The trial SIM cards, however, are not available without LYF phone devices.

The Jio SIM cards were earlier made available only to RIL group employees, partners, vendors and associates, which meant a user base of about 500,000 users.

Under the referral scheme, an employee can refer 10 friends. Many of them have exhausted their referral quotas and are awaiting new ones, said another company executive.

He too requested anonymity as the plans are not yet public.

The company had indicated that it will slowly expand its sales network as it heads into a commercial launch.

On 22 April, following the announcement of RIL’s March quarter earnings, Anshuman Thakur, head of strategy and planning at Reliance Jio Infocomm, said that the company will transition these trials into a commercial launch.

“We want to have an extensive testing phase because it is for the first time that it’s being launched anywhere in the world on this scale. We want to make sure that it works to our and the user’s satisfaction,” Thakur said.

To spread the word on Jio and LYF devices, in addition to traditional and digital advertising, RIL will be putting up signboards at 80,000 smartphone-selling outlets across the country.

“All these outlets are signed up and have a Jio representative. We can track their progress and what kind of support they need. We divided India into 1,100 markets and each market is supported by a Jio centre. We have 3,000 service engineers on the rolls of RIL,” said the first executive.

Morgan Stanley, in a report dated 25 April, said that RIL was expected to launch Jio services in three-to-nine months.

Jio is expected to have at least 30 million subscribers by the end of this financial year, with a revenue of over $1 billion, the report said.

“We estimate Reliance Jio to have 30 million subscribers by FY2017 and 60 million by FY2018 with an ARPU (average revenue per user) of 1.3x-1.8x versus the current industry ARPU Rs.200, thus generating over $1 billion revenues in FY2017,” the report said.