For centuries, India’s markets have acted as community centers of commerce, where townspeople converge to trade, gather news, socialize and, of course, shop. But access to these bazaars traditionally has been available only to locals and those willing to travel.
“My customers were neighbors and the occasional tourist,” recalls Pabiben Rabari, a female artisan specializing in embroidery. “They had to come to me. And I had to deal with a middleman who took all the credit.”
Pabiben—from the Kutch district of Gujarat in western India—knew it was possible for her to reach more customers by selling online. She just needed the tools and the network to make it happen.
Before 2016, India’s population of 1.3 billion consumed only 0.2 exabytes—that’s 200 million gigabytes—of 2G/3G mobile broadband services each month. On a global scale, India ranked 135th in fixed broadband usage.
But in a 2017 partnership with Cisco, Reliance Jio launched one of the world’s largest 4G LTE networks startups with the goal of revolutionizing communication in India. The 5G-ready network offers 10 times the broadband capacity of the world’s largest providers, plus free voice calls to Jio customers across India and 15-minute SIM activation, which previously had taken three to five days.
“I used to dream up ideas for new businesses all the time,” says Radhika Ghai, co-founder of ShopClues, an online bazaar-like marketplace now valued at $1.1 billion. “Now I make those dreams a reality every day.”
With expanded access to a reliable 4G network, artisans like Pabiben—whose Pabiben Designs creations now sell in over 40 countries—have the opportunity to expand their businesses independently and reach a global customer base.
“As a female-founded artisan enterprise, I now have the power to promote not only my craftsmanship, but my country’s heritage,” says Pabiben. “It’s a ripple effect. While I shape my own future, I can help other women create their identities through artistic talent. We are stronger together.”