Highlights: Mukesh Ambani joins Mark Zuckerberg at Fuel for India 2020 event

Today, the Fuel for India 2020 event witnessed a path-breaking conversation between conglomerate giant Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and internet major Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg, during the virtual ‘Partnering for Digital India’ event, discussed 4G and 5G revolution in India with Mukesh Ambani. He said Reliance brought 4G revolution in India, and that 5G was now another big focus for the company.

“We are looking forward to your involvement in India… I hope the rest of the world learns from Indian policy,” Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, told the Facebook CEO in virtual interaction. “How grateful I am for everything that you and your companies do in our partnership… I am incredibly grateful for your partnership in this. Thank you,” Mark Zuckerberg told Ambani.

In April this year, Facebook had announced an investment of $5.7 billion (Rs 43,574 crore) in Jio Platforms, the digital services arm of India’s most valuable company.

Fuel for India 2020 is the first edition of an annual dialogue built around Facebook’s continuing commitment to India, according to the Fuel for India 2020 website. “Through meaningful exchanges and conversations, we aspire to showcase the most powerful stories of change in India and how we are bringing together our products, programs, and plans to fuel these journeys and India’s progress,” it adds.

Ajit Mohan, Facebook’s India Vice President and Managing Director kicked off the Facebook Fuel for India event and said that the event is an effort ‘to showcase extraordinary stories of grit and resilience’.

Highlighting the social networking giant’s commitment to India, Zuckerberg told reporters: “At Facebook, we are in the business of serving small businesses. And nowhere is this more true than in India. With more than 60 million small businesses and millions of people around the country relying on them for jobs these small businesses form a big part of what our partnership with Jio can serve here.”

Zuckerberg said he was curious to see what lies for India next. “What other technologies or developments are you excited about now? And where do you see the country in the next five to ten years?” he asked Mr Ambani.

To which Ambani replied he sees India accelerating as a premier digital society. “I see us integrating both 5G…and just yesterday, our Prime Minister has said that he wants every village and every gram panchayat,” Mr Ambani said.

Mark Zuckerberg started the event by addressing India as an exceptional and important country for Facebook,  he added that he is aware of millions of people in the country are using their products every day to stay in touch with friends and family. “Whether it’s a WhatsApp message, or a Facebook post, or photos on Instagram. And millions of small businesses across the country use WhatsApp business and Messenger to reach customers, manage orders, and grow their businesses. And in fact, we tested some of our new features here first, before rolling them out globally,” he added

Mukesh Ambani started the conversation by congratulating Mr Zuckerberg and his team for organizing the Facebook Fuel for India event. He further added, “I am sure this event will provide a lot of fuel of ideas to fire India’s growth engine as you just described. The most powerful idea that can propel India’s growth is that young people can create great enterprises and new businesses. And all the young Indian people see an inspiring young icon in Mark Zuckerberg. They are motivated when they see how in just 14 years, Facebook has become the face of a digitally connected India. So, let me begin by conveying my best wishes to the success of your dreams for India, Indians, and small Indian businesses.”

Ambani said India carried out “second-generation reforms” in the last six months. “We have unique opportunities and as Jio we are connecting all the 1.9 million schools in India and the 58000 colleges.”

According to Zuckerberg, supporting small businesses has become more important given the COVID-19 induced impact on the economy.

While addressing the COVID-19 impact, Facebook CEO asked Mr Ambani, “From your perspective, how is India doing right now? And when do you expect things are going to return to normal? And I know that Reliance has taken several big steps to help the community and help the country, and it’s been a big year for you. So I am curious to hear, how did your company adapt to help move forward amidst pandemic?”

To which RIL Chairman replied, “The sheer magnitude of COVID-19 pandemic, like everybody else in the world, did startle all of us in India. But then I think it is not in India’s DNA to be deterred by a crisis. I firmly believe that a crisis is too precious to be wasted. Every crisis presents an opportunity for new growth, and India has faced the COVID-19 crisis with enormous resilience and resolve.”

He added, “Reliance and Reliance Foundation, have also taken steps. As you know, Reliance has over 350,000 employees across the length and breadth of India and we have taken steps to protect over 2 million in our family and the community around them. In Mumbai, we have built a hospital just dedicated to COVID-19. We have Life Sciences as part of our business, so we have tested up early on we have ramped up testing, and we believe that testing helped in tracing and isolation, and at least reduced fatalities in our communities to a very low level.”

Mark Zuckerberg told Mukesh Ambani that one of the big opportunities which he sees with the Facebook-Jio partnership is the role that they both can play together in supporting the millions of small businesses in India, especially now with the impact that COVID-19 is having, in accelerating the move of businesses from physical storefronts to digital ones in this digital future.

“What happens in India is important for the whole world. India’s building local capabilities and tech capacity to power innovative new business models and provide the citizens access to digital financial inclusion. So, decisions that are made here shape the global discussion about how technology can drive more economic opportunity and better outcomes for people,” the Facebook CEO said.

Mr Ambani concluded by saying, “The next two decades are going to be historic in terms of the social and economic transformation.”

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