A boost for Whatsapp in India as Reliance all set to push JioMart on it

reliance jio stores
(Image credit: Reliance Industries)

When Facebook invested $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms, this is what TechRadar wrote: "The speculation is that the social networking giant wants to bring JioMart — Jio's small business  platform — to WhatsApp, enabling users to connect with  businesses directly. With over 400 million users, India is WhatsApp's largest market by some margin, and Facebook is now looking to use that scale to turn the platform into an e-commerce destination." 

And, now our prediction has come true. 

According to a report in The Mint, which quotes two anonymous officials, Reliance Retail has plans to embed its e-commerce app JioMart into WhatsApp within six months. JioMart will keep users within WhatsApp, and the APIs (application programming interface) allow that.

The idea is to make WhatsApp the platform that brings together buyers, delivery partners and sellers.

WhatsApp with its undoubted reach in India --- despite the issues surrounding its privacy policy tweaks --- can help JioMart make a spirited challenge against Flipkart and Amazon India that dominate the India's e-tail market now. Of course, this move is also likely to create some traction for Whatsapp in India, given the controversies surrounding its recent privacy policy updates. 

That the company postponed the date for accepting these updates from February 8 to May 15 is also an indicator that the Facebook-owned brand has set its sights on becoming a single-stop solution to digital retail. Of course, there is also the question of how it can grow its recently launched Whatsapp Pay feature. 

JioMart's gambit

India’s e-grocery market size is pegged at Rs 6,201 crore ($875 million), and is expected to grow exponentially to hit Rs 1.03 lakh crore ($14.6 billion) by 2023. All the companies know that they are only scratching the surface, and hence are unveiling ambitious plans to get a strong foothold.

JioMart was launched in May 2020 across 200 cities and towns in India.

It has already reached out to thousands of mom and pop stores across the country. It hopes to exploit the wide reach of these stores to connect with more consumers. Jio Mart has smartly worked out a deal with these stores by which it will help them with automation at the backend and scale up the business. The idea of onboarding kirana shops is that it is easy to access more consumers at no extra cost.

Jio Mart is also leaning on Reliance Retail’s 11,000 brick-and-mortar stores in over 6,600 cities with access to cold storage and warehousing facilities.

Jio Mart is believed to be the digital storefront which aggregates a mix of Reliance Retail’s distribution centres, its B2B cash and carry business—Reliance Market, the neighbourhood mom and pop stores, and other organised retail outlets owned by Reliance.

The Jio-WhatsApp tango

WhatsApp is the crucial link for Jio Mart. It will also likely dip into the services of Facebook Messenger and Facebook app itself to integrate shopping feature and reach a broader user base. But essentially, Jio will leverage WhatsApp for Business to its retailers, with an end-to-end service, unlike now, where they have to go to other third-party companies.

It also has an inventory management feature that lets businesses to showcase and share products and services. WhatsApp has also recently added a shopping button that gives customers access to a business’s catalogue directly from their chat screen. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg actually hinted at what the deal with Jio Platforms was aimed at. “India is a special place for us. We are also committing to work together on some critical projects that we think are going to open up a lot of opportunities for commerce in India. Facebook and WhatsApp have been trying to court small and medium businesses (SMBs) on their respective platforms over the last two years."

And there is WhatsApp Pay, for which the RBI gave the go-ahead recently. Though the user limit has been fixed at 20 million, it sure will add further impetus to the whole business plan centered around an ubiquitous app that Indians cannot do without.

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Balakumar K
Senior Editor

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.