The secret to Jio’s success: customer-centricity and a webscale mentality

At Digital Transformation World in Nice, Steffen Roehn, Expert Vice President, Bain & Co, talked about his experience as a Senior Advisor at Jio, saying that while some people may think it’s easy to launch a greenfield mobile operator without the burdens of legacy tech or old-school mentalities, the reality was quite different.

The secret to Jio’s success: customer-centricity and a webscale mentality

Reliance Jio made it look easy when it successfully entered India’s jam-packed, hypercompetitive mobile market with free 4G voice and data. In fact, it took a lot of hard work and a strategy centered on serious customer-centricity and a webscale approach to just about everything.
At Digital Transformation World in Nice, Steffen Roehn, Expert Vice President, Bain & Co, talked about his experience as a Senior Advisor at Jio. Roehn who was this month elected as TM Forum's new chairman for a two-year term, said that while some people may think it’s easy to launch a greenfield mobile operator without the burdens of legacy tech or old-school mentalities, the reality was quite different.
“There were also those nights where our team and myself were just thinking, it's never going to work, it's just impossible.”

Roehn outlined Jio’s ‘digital only / mobile first’ strategy, which essentially involved designing a mobile service in the way a digital webscale company might, particularly in terms of scalability, putting customers in control, and seeing everything as an opportunity rather than a problem.
“As operators, as architects, we are more problem-oriented people,” he stated “And we have to start changing that – we have to work within this agile methodology, in thinking of opportunities, what is out there for us to conquer, rather than looking at only at the problems.”

Roehn – who went to work for Jio after a dozen years at German incumbent telco Deutsch Telekom – said he had three personal takeaways from his Jio experience, first and foremost being to fully understand what your customers truly desire.
“If your guiding light is what the customer really wants, you cannot be wrong.”

The second takeaway was that while infrastructure may be a barrier to entry, a webscale mentality to infrastructure will help you clear that hurdle. “Disruptive approaches also work for telco infrastructure companies – we've proven it.”

As an example, Roehn explained that Jio didn’t offer free data, voice and SMS for six months simply to build up a customer base fast and undercut the incumbents. Those customers also served as beta testers that Jio tapped to optimize its network.

Last but not least, Roehn concluded, you need the right team with the right mentality – and that includes the vendors. In fact, he told us that Jio took its vendor partners so seriously, it co-located their people in the same office space with the Jio team – even to the point of pitting competing vendors against each other on the same floor.
“We believe they have to feel the competition – they have to feel the heat. It was eye-opening and brought remarkable results for us. This makes a big difference.”