From $5 trillion economy to COVID-19 pandemic - 5 key takeaways from Ambani-Zuckerberg interaction

Reliance Industries Chairman and MD Mukesh Ambani on Tuesday held a virtual interaction with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the 'Facebook Fuel for India 2020' event.

Calling India a very special and important country with a remarkable entrepreneurship culture, Zuckerberg touched upon a multitude of topics as he sought to push the just-launched payments services that allow users to make payments over WhatsApp. Ambani for his part spoke about new digital initiatives taken up by India, lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership.

Here's a look at some of the highlights from the exchange:

PM Modi's leadership and COVID-19 pandemic

Applauding Prime Minister Modi's leadership amid the pandemic, Ambani opined that if the pandemic had struck earlier, the situation would have been far more grim. "...if the pandemic had struck India just four or five years earlier, we would not have been in as good a shape as what we are today, with all the connectivity we have. The credit for that must go to our Prime Minister's Digital India vision, where he motivated the entire industry to roll out broadband in the first five years of his first term," he told Zuckerberg.

"Prime Minister Modi has led India from the front, and while we are not as rich a country as some of our western counterparts, being fiscally prudent, he (PM Modi) has taken steps to take care of our vulnerable...And now we are ready and pretty much at par with the world, to roll out one of the largest vaccine programs in the first half of 2021, under Prime Minister's leadership," he added.

Facebook-Jio deal

Earlier this year, Facebook had invested $5.7 billion in RIL's telecom unit Jio, purchasing a 9.9% stake.

"I have no hesitation in going on record, that it is your investment that set the ball rolling. Not only for Jio, but for the Indian FDI which has been the largest-ever in its history. And our partnership between Jio and Facebook, will actually demonstrate that it is great for India, Indians, and small Indian businesses," Ambani told Zuckerberg during the interaction.

Zuckerberg said its partnership with Jio Platforms will help support millions of small businesses 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," he said.

$5 trillion economy dream

The two business leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to making India a $5 trillion economy. According to reports that quote remarks by Zuckerberg, he had said that the company would focus more on helping India realise the ambitious target in the coming days.

"At Facebook, we like to say that we are in the business of serving small businesses. And nowhere is this more true than in India. This is especially important because small businesses here will be a key part of the global recovery going forward. And we are focused on making sure we build the best tools for them," the Facebook chief said.

Economic growth and becoming a digital society

Ambani opined that in the next two decades, India will grow to be among the top three economies in the world. But more importantly, he said, it will become a premier digital society with young people and young businesses driving it.

"And our per capita income will go from eighteen hundred - two thousand dollars per capita, to five thousand dollars per capita. Our mid-income or the middle class in India which is about 50% of its total number of households, will grow to three to four percent per year. And I think that Facebook, Jio, and a lot of other companies and entrepreneurs in the world, have a golden opportunity to be in India, to be part of this economic and social transformation, that we are witnessing and that will accelerate in the coming decades," Ambani said.

Facebook tests new features in India

Calling India a "special and important country" Zuckerberg explained that with India being a massive market for the company's apps, many features were first tested in the country. "We actually test some of our new features here first, before rolling them out globally," said Mark Zuckerberg.

(With inputs from agencies)

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