In the first consumer-facing offering to come out of the Facebook- Reliance Industries deal, the two entities will collaborate over the JioMart e-commerce platform. While details are not available, it is possible the mart will use WhatsApp’s business features to quickly bring local stores on board to reach out to customers.
In a call after the announcements, Facebook’s VP and Managing Director for India, Ajit Mohan, said the “entire energy” is on trying to figure out how they could help small businesses in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting lockdown in India.
“We will really start to explore multiple areas of collaboration,” he said, adding they would look at how to “open new doors” and “new avenues”. “We have articulated that the first major collaboration is involving JioMart, which is essentially to help small businesses. There are about 60 million small businesses in India. And we do believe there is an opportunity to help them connect with their customers and help people locate stores and merchants, locate the product,” Mohan said.
Anshuman Thakur, head of strategy at Reliance Jio, said during the call: “As we come to the post-COVID era, and the economic recovery that we’re all hoping for, there is a lot that we can do together, and so the timing has been appropriate.”
Thakur described the deal as a “long-term partnership”, and said the initial products would be focussed on small and medium enterprises as well as the merchants, “where we can go in with the products that they understand well already”.
While over a million Indians currently have access to WhatsApp, WhatsApp Pay is yet to get regulatory clearance. Reliance, however, has JioMoney, which could be integrated into the JioMart product to make payments seamless.
Thakur said Facebook will have a seat on the board of Jio Platforms, along with an observer seat. “Facebook will be our largest partner… that is an expression of the commitment and trust.”
However, Thakur clarified that the investment or the partnership or collaboration did not mean that the companies (Facebook and Jio) would stop competing in the market. “There will be times where we will be directly competing with each other; in the market the entities are independent of each other in every respect,” he said.
Which means that once it gets clearance, WhatsApp Pay will compete directly with JioMoney. Also, Jio has messengers that compete with WhatsApp for user attention.
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