India’s Reliance Jio Platforms, which recently concluded a $15.2 billion fundraise run, is ready to enter a new business: Video conferencing.
On Thursday evening, the firm — backed by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man — formally launched JioMeet, its video-conference service that looks uncannily like Zoom.
Like Zoom and Google Meet, JioMeet offers unlimited number of free calls in high definition (720p) to users and supports as many as 100 participants on a call. But interestingly, it appears to not impose a short time limit on a call’s duration. Jio Platforms says a free call can be uninterrupted for “up to 24 hours” long. The service currently has no paid plans and it’s unclear if Jio Platforms, which has a reputation of giving away services for free for years, plans to change that.
Jio Platforms, which began beta testing JioMeet in May this year, said the video conferencing service offers “enterprise-grade” host controls. These include: password protection on each call, multi-device login support (up to five devices), and ability to share screen and collaborate.
Other features include the ability to switch “seemingly” from one device to another, and a ‘Safe Driving Mode’ for when a participant is in commute. Hosts can also enable a ‘waiting room’ to ensure participants have to ask for permission to enter a call.
The company did not provide any more details, including whether people outside of India could use the service. On its website, JioMeet claims all the meetings are “encrypted” but does not elaborate whether these calls are end-to-end encrypted.
The launch of JioMeet today comes as tens of millions of people in India are working from home and using video conferencing services for work and to stay in touch with friends.
Zoom, currently the most popular video conference service in India, on Android had about 35 million monthly active users in the third week of June, up from about 4 million users during the same period in March, according to mobile insights firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. (Android powers nearly 99% of smartphones in India.)
In a call with analysts earlier this year, Jio executives had described JioMeet as a platform that they think would some day have features to enable doctors to consult their patients, prescribe them medicine, and have a system in place to let them buy medicines online and get test results digitally. Similarly, they said JioMeet will allow teachers to host virtual classrooms for their students, with the ability to record sessions, assign and accept homework, and conduct tests digitally.
JioPlatforms, which is India’s top telecom operator with about 400 million customers, operates a number of digital services including JioMusic, a music streaming service; JioCinema, which offers thousands of TV shows and movies; and JioTV, which allows users to watch more than 500 TV channels. All of these services are available at no additional charge to Jio Platforms subscribers. It costs less than $2 a month to be a Jio subscriber.
The launch of JioMeet — available for use through Chrome and Firefox browsers on desktop, as well as via standalone apps for macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android, and an Outlook plugin — coincides with a nationwide ban on 59 Chinese services including TikTok, ShareIt, Alibaba Group’s UC Browser and Tencent’s WeChat. New Delhi banned these services on Monday evening citing security concerns.
Updated on July 3: Intel said on Friday it will invest $253.5 million in Jio Platforms, joining a roster of high-profile investors including Facebook and Silver Lake that have backed India’s top telecom operator in recent months.