Zuckerberg spoke to Ambani but there was no chemistry — even with a multi-million dollar partnership between them

7 Mins read
  • The world was waiting to see two of the planet’s richest men speak to each other and while they delivered some headlines, there was little chemistry to show.
  • Despite the multi-million dollar deal between the two companies, Zuckerberg and Ambani were asking each other questions that should have ideally been answered before their partnership.
  • Here are the highlights of the 40-minute conversation between two of the richest men in the world.

Two of the richest men in the world, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, agree on one thing. If the pandemic had hit even five years earlier, India would not have been ready.

However, the headlines were few and far between. Their individual dispositions were exemplified by the lack of chemistry between the two of them during the last session of Facebook’s Fuel for India 2020 conference. In fact, it seemed like the two of them didn’t know each other as well as business partners should, considering the massive amount of money Facebook has invested in Jio.

Both Ambani and Zuckerberg praised each other and asked questions that, one would suppose, would have been addressed before the investment was made. The chat between Microsoft chief Satya Nadella and Ambani was a bit more free-flowing than this one. But that was also before the pandemic and they were sitting next to each other.

Zuckerberg spoke to Ambani but there was no chemistry — even with a multi-million dollar partnership between them
Mukesh Ambani and Microsoft CEO Sataya Nadella in February 2020BCCL

Zuckerberg and Ambani may have been inconvenienced by the fact that it was a video call. But, one can’t be reprimanded for expecting the ‘architect of the digital network of the world’ (how Ambani described Zuckerberg) and the man turning India into a digital society to be a bit more comfortable with technology given their shared vision of a hi-tech future.

The entire transcript of their conversation, which lasted over 40 minutes, was around 11 pages long. We, at Business Insider India, have shrunk the tete-a-tete down to the most important things that you need to know.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation between Ambani and Zuckerberg on December 15:

So I’m curious from your perspective how is India doing right now? When you expect things are going to return to normal? And, I know that Reliance has taken a number of big steps to help the community in the country. It’s been a big year for you.

I’m curious to hear how your company adapted to help you move forward in the midst of this pandemic.

[Ambani spoke a lot about what the government, the Reliance Foundation and his teams had contributed to the COVID relief efforts before answering how he sees the current situation in India.]

Mark, sometimes I wonder that if the pandemic had struck India just four or five years earlier, we would have not been in as good a shape as what we are today. With all the connectivity we have, and 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.

And, during the pandemic. India has attracted the largest foreign direct investment in its history, Mark. We have our own example of how Jio and Facebook concluded our partnership. Right in the middle of lockdown.


And, I believe, Mark, that our actions will speak louder than our words in the coming months and years time here.

One of the big opportunities that I see with this partnership, Facebook and Jio partnership, is the role that we can play together in supporting the millions of small businesses in India especially now with the impact that COVID is having accelerating the move that a lot of businesses have from physical storefronts to digital ones and in this digital future.

So, I’m curious — what role do you see technology, playing in this post COVID world? Especially as it relates to all of these small businesses that I know you share a passion with me that is just critical that we serve them.

Absolutely, Mark. And, let me point out a very unique feature about our partnership. Perhaps, not many people have understood this, but before this partnership I believe that each one of us was mainly a communication platform.

Together, we now have become a value creation platform for our customers and small businesses. And, I firmly believe that technology with all the digitization steps that India has taken will democratize wealth and value creation for individuals and small businesses.

And, let me explain this very simply, Whatsapp has hundreds of millions of subscribers in India Jio has hundreds of millions of subscribers in India. Jio Mart, which is our retail service, actually has the aspiration of serving tens of millions of small shopkeepers in India, who are the bedrock of employment.

So, what does this mean? This means Jio brings digital connectivity. WhatsApp, now with WhatsApp brings digital interactivity and the ability to move to close transactions and create value. And, Jio Mart brings the unmatched online and offline retail opportunity that gives our small shops, which exist in villages and small towns in India, a chance to digitize and be at par with anybody else in the world.


I’m curious as you look ahead to the future in India — what other technologies or developments are you excited about now? Where do you see the country in the next five to 10 years?

Well, as I mentioned to you, Mark. I really see India accelerating as a premier digital society. I see us integrating 5G.


We also think that compute, and very low latency compute is real.I think that there is a great opportunity for really bringing education and healthcare with the second generation reforms that were done in the last six months, right.


And, I think that in a span of 10 years, we can set for ourselves an objective to really reskill India and the talent that you talked about can improve 10x. Today, you’re just seeing the creamy layer. But, that’s what technology can do to really make a better India in a better world.

The same thing we can do in health, and all the emerging technology and integrations where we can make sure that we deliver services and we deliver good proactive healthcare.


And, that is why I think that the next two decades are going to be historic in terms of the social and economic transformation.

It always blows me away that India has more than 60 million small businesses and millions of people around the country rely on them for jobs. That’s a big part of what I hope that our partnership can serve here. We support more than 50 million WhatsApp business app users globally every month already and more than 15 million of these are in India.

As you said, now, I can’t imagine going through the pandemic 10 years ago or even two decades ago when the internet was still nascent. It would have been a completely different experience. And, technology, of course, is allowing us to make sure that we can get accurate information out to people that has implications on health, education and helping serve people better.

I think it shows a lot of the promise for what’s ahead and I think we’ve certainly fared better now than we would have if the pandemic hit us before.

Ambani: I couldn’t agree more, Mark.

I call you the ‘architect of the digital network of the world’. While I have built some connectivity and broadband connectivity in India, you’ve done that for the world.Please share with us your experience of as the digital architect of the world, how your global Facebook experience has helped people in this crisis and your perspective of the crisis and where you see the world today and where it is going?


We just launched WhatsApp payments in India last month. So you can send money to your friends and family through WhatsApp as easily as sending a message and that was possible because of the UPI system that has been built in via unified payments interface so it makes it easy for anyone to instantly accept payments across different apps.

I think we’re working with 140 banks, or it’s supported by 140 banks out of the gate. And, India’s the first country in the world to do anything like this now.

So we’re grateful to be able to support this kind of innovation to help to work to create more prosperity and help achieve a more Digital India. In fact, I think that a lot of other places around the world are going to be better off when they follow some of this lead that India has set in creating public goods like this.


I hope that the rest of the world learns from Indian policy, and what Facebook is able to achieve in India. We as Indians will be very proud if Facebook says we did it first in India, and then took it to 100 countries. I look forward to working with you on that.

Mark, all of us would love to know your views on how the world is changing. And, what you and Facebook are thinking about. And what you see the future as. Just give us your perspective, Mark.

[He spoke about how technology is empowering individuals, not just businesses and how it has been “incredibly democratising”.]

We’re now on the next step with now great 4G and coming 5G networks. Video is really becoming the primary way that people share. Anyone can learn and capture something on their phones and then share it or stream it. Increasingly people are able to consume that.

Video is just a lot richer of a medium than photos. Even when my daughters took their first steps, I wanted to capture a video of that and share it, not just a photo. But I don’t think video is the end of the line.

So, a lot of what I’m focused on is creating a helping screen virtual reality and augmented reality, so that way we can share not only the video of an experience, but you can use virtual reality to go into an experience and feel like you’re right there.

You can have holograms of digital objects that can kind of be as realistic as the physical objects that are there. Meaning in five or 10 years when we’re having this conversation, it will just be a hologram version of me sitting on the couch next to you instead of having to do this over a screen. It’ll feel a lot more realistic.

A big part of why I was excited to partner with you is because there are not many people around the world, who’ve just gone industry after industry revolutionized them and improve them, and continue to do it and have that hunger to improve the lives of so many people so I just have a deep admiration for that.

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