A woman waits at a bus stop with an advertisement of Reliance Industries' Jio telecoms unit in Mumbai on July 11, 2017. (Photo: Reuters)
Richest Indian Mukesh Ambani's telecom unit Reliance Jio has been ranked as the top company globally on Fortune's 'Change The World' list that ranked companies using the profit motive to help the planet and tackle social problems.
Jio is ranked ahead of pharma giant Merck and Bank of America, according to Fortune list released today.
Chinese group Alibaba is ranked 5th on the list that has food and drug stores Kroger at number six, industrial machinery firm ABB at number 8 and network and communications giant Hughes Network System at number 10.
"If access to the Internet is a basic human right -- and the United Nations declared it one in the summer of 2016 -- then Reliance Jio deserves more credit than most for expanding access to it," Fortune said.
Jio stormed the sector with free calls and data forcing rivals to merge or exit in September 2016 and has amassed 215 million subscribers since then and says it is profitable.
Fortune said Ambani "likes to say it provides the public with 'digital oxygen'" but "two years ago there wasn't much oxygen to go around in the world's second-most-populous country."
"Mobile phones crawled on 2G networks, and consumers typically paid more than Rs 200 for one gigabyte of data. India had just 153 million mobile Internet subscribers among its population of 1.3 billion.
"Enter Jio, with a speedy 4G network (which it spent billions building out), free calls, and dirt-cheap data (as low as 4 per GB). It has since issued a super-low-cost smartphone and is rolling out fixed broadband service as well," it said. "The resulting 'Jio-fication' has been nothing short of revolutionary; with data use surging and Jio's competitors scrambling to match its offerings, the development has jump-started India's digital economy."
The biggest winners, it said, are those in rural areas or of modest means -- farmers, students, and entrepreneurs who finally have in their hands the tool they need to participate in the modern economy.
Fortune said the Change the World list recognizes companies that have had a positive social impact through activities that are part of their core business strategy.
Considering only companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more, the list measures social impact, business results (profitability), the degree of innovation and corporate integration, it said.