Watch: Microsoft top boss Satya Nadella's conversation with Mukesh Ambani, Asia's richest man

FILE PHOTO: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during, 'An Insight, An Idea with Satya Nadella session', at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. (Photo)(
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella began his three-day India trip from Mumbai where he engaged with chief executives of Indian companies on the future of technology.
  • Nadella had a separate fire-side chat with Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of one of India's largest conglomerate, Reliance Industries.
  • The following are the highlights of the conversation between two of the world's tallest corporate leaders.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft
Mukesh, I thought, perhaps, we could start.. I have heard you speak very passionately about just India's potential. What can the next ten year's represent? How the Indian economy can grow? How digital will be a part of it? Share your thoughts on how this economy will thrive in the next ten years.

Mukesh Ambani, Reliance
Absolutely! Before I answer that Satya, a very warm welcome to India and Mumbai. And I can tell you that I wanted to warmly congratulate you on your leadership and the transformation, and the success of Microsoft over the last many years. I think every Indian is very, very proud.

(crowd applauds)
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Ambani: What I admire about, and what I learn, in your leadership style, what you have demonstrated that if you have empathy, if you rely on partnerships, if you build trust and relationships, if you think about every mistake as a learning opportunity, and if you believe that it is not product or profits but its people and the reinvention of their capability, that is the strength of the organisation. I think all of us in India Inc are very inspired. Thank you for all your leadership.

Personally, I am very committed and I am very privileged Satya that you have committed to India on a scale that I never anticipated that a multinational will. I am very excited about the partnership that Jio and Microsoft will have and I think that, that will be, as we look at this decade, that will be a defining partnership.

Nadella: Thank you

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(crowd applauds)

Ambani: Now, let me answer your question.

As we are speaking, President Trump has arrived in India. The India that he will see in 2020, will be very different from the one that President Carter saw or Clinton saw, or even (the one that) Obama (did).

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We have millions of people on the street, each one having their own personal experience with their phones, and the network is strong enough. I can easily say that the mobile networks in India are better or at par with anybody else in the world. That's the big change.

Nadella: That's amazing!

Ambani: (continues) When he reaches the (Motera) stadium, and you talked about the stadium, and the digital infrastructure in that stadium is better than any other place in the world. That is the India as we start in 2020.

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If you then even think about your own journey. When you think about 1992, when you joined Microsoft, India (economy) was $300 million, today it is $3 trillion

Nadella: Yeah!

Ambani: Fundamentally, this whole progress in a certain way has happened on the back of technology. In the early days, it was Rajesh's TCS and Infosys, and all of them who drove technology in India that really kickstarted, with all the economic reforms, this whole growth paradigm.

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It was supercharged in 2014 when Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) gave us the vision of Digital India. If you then see what followed, and I was again privileged to play a very small role with the launch of Jio.

Just to share with you and the audience, pre-Jio, we had 256 kbps, which we called broadband in India, and post Jio 21 mbps on mobile data as the average speed available in every single village in India.

Nadella: That's amazing!

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(crowd applauds)

Ambani: Pre Jio, the price of data was between 300 and 500 rupees. And for the poorest of poor, who use 2G, the price was as high as 10,000 rupees a GB. Post Jio, the price is between Rs 12 and Rs 14 a GB.

What Jio has achieved in the last three years is, 380 million people have migrated to the Jio 4G technology. That tells you the enthusiasm in the youth of India, the enthusiasm in consumption in India, and the enthusiasm even in my mother who is 85 years old and the amount of time she spends, and in your language, she has the greatest tech intensity and adoption.

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(Nadella laughs along with the crowd)

Ambani: That's really what has happened. Consumption has also gone up and this has really become a people's movement. And when you then talk about financial sector, we just introduced UPI (unified payments interface) with digitisation in December, we had a 100% growth. The total UPI transaction in this country is Rs 2 lakh crore.

What has happened is, because we have the infrastructure, we are accelerating, and we are just at the beginning of this whole journey....

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Nadella: That's one of the things I want to ask you. In some sense,all of what you have done in laying out this network capability, you talked about what that has led to, in terms of people being empowered, consuming more and you have the best rates and connectivity today. Now, you also have an ambition, to say, what can you do for small and medium businesses. Our partnership, in some sense, is about how you take what I talked about, and how can we combine it with your expertise to completely change the landscape.

Ambani: Let me again start with saying that Reliance was founded as a startup, even before startups became... my father started it with a table and a chair and a thousand rupees. Then it became a small industry, then a medium one, and today's it's a large enterprise.

I have been fortunate in terms of knowing Steve (Jobs) and Bill (Gates from my Stanford days. It was even before Microsoft was founded, and Steve was being recruited by Bill and I have seen the growth of Microsoft since then...

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Nadella: (laughs) There must be something in the air. Both of you dropped out.

Ambani: What I am saying is to fundamentally drive the point that every small business, entrepreneur has the potential in India to become a Dhirubhai Ambani or a Bill Gates. That is the power. that is what differentiates India from the rest of the world. The entrepreneurial power that is there is the grassroots is enormous.

And what this decade will offer, and if we even see the opening balance of MSMEs, we have to realise that they provide 70% of India's employment, they drive 40% of India's exports, and they are critical to all the economic activity that we see. And they have done this with zero technical enablment and adoption.

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So, the opportunity there is to go with no technology, no digitisation, and really pole-vault to adopt and our opportunity for Jio and Microsoft is to provide them full service, so that they are fully enabled with all the tool set and data sets... because the mindset exists to really propel India forward. And that is an even bigger opportunity than the consumer piece that we have seen in the last few years .

Nadella: Tremendous! May be we can close out, you sort of referenced how your father got started five decades ago with a dream and a hope of what is possible and created what is today, it is one of the most amazing stories in business. When you are leading this organisation and look out, what inspires you, what drives you, what is it you would you like to see happen?

Ambani: I think the opportunity what we have for India, really is the opportunity to become the premier digital society in the world. I think with all the components that are coming in place as we grow and march forward, I have no doubt in my mind that we will become among the top three economies in the world. 20 years ago, we were saying where will India be? Now I think if you talk to anybody, there is no doubt in anybody's mind, we can argue about whether it will happen in 5 years or 10 years, and we will be one of the top 3 economies in the world.

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When that happens, our opportunity is will we be the most technically-enabled society? Will we have all our development enabled by all the tools of technology? Can we really be a pace setter in terms of using all technology? And again, what our Prime Minister says, can we then use technology for businesses, so that there is ease of doing business, but we then in partnership deliver ease of living for every citizen of India and build a society that is equal, has ethics and really gives equal opportunity to empower everybody to find that potential. And that, I think, in the coming, two decades, is the opportunity that India has. What next generations of India will see is a very different India than what you and I have grown up in.

I think all of us like should be working towards that our own partnership between God and Microsoft, right, we'll work with businesses, from startups to micro enterprises to merchants and shopkeepers to really large enterprises, in partnership, really to drive and build this new India.

Nadella: In fact, one thing that Akash will sort of really weigh on me if I don't mention is gaming.In the next decade, you may become a gamer?

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Ambani: (laughs) that is difficult. I think that, well, Akash is very excited in terms of... like gaming doesn't really exist in India, and with everything that we're doing is ex-cloud and broadband connectivity. Right. I think there is huge potential, and for some of us, like, who don't know what gaming is right it's very hard to imagine that gaming will be bigger than music, movies and TV shows all put together, but we will see.

Nadella: Fantastic! Thank you so much Mukesh.

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