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Reliance aims to embed E-Commerce app (JioMart) in WhatsApp

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JioMart was introduced in May around 200 cities and towns. A month after Reliance Retail signed a deal with WhatsApp to enhance the scope of the online shopping platform.

Within six months, Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail Ltd plans to integrate its JioMart e-commerce app into WhatsApp, letting 400 million users of India’s most popular messaging service order items without having to leave the app, two officials aware of the growth said, speaking anonymously.

The integration will allow JioMart to propel its reach across India, allowing Reliance Retail to pose a serious challenge to the domination of Flipkart and Amazon in the fast-growing online retail market in India. Ambani is trying to grab a larger share of the retail market in India, which is estimated to cross $1.3 trillion by 2025. Reliance is now the largest offline retailer in India.

A month after Reliance Retail signed a deal with WhatsApp to improve the presence of the online shopping platform, JioMart was introduced in May across 200 cities and towns. Facebook Inc. purchased a 9.9 percent stake in Jio Platforms, the digital unit of Reliance Industries, for $5.7 billion in April.

For both companies, it is essentially a relationship of strengths. A retail layer for WhatsApp chats is successfully implemented by the JioMart integration. It makes all the more sense, with payments now available on WhatsApp. Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner of Convergence Catalyst, a research company, said that the talks, retail and payments will all be integrated within the same app now.

A spokesperson for Reliance Retail did not respond to an email requesting comment.

We will put millions of small businesses and the customers they represent into the digital economy through our Jio investment. This would make it easier for companies to communicate and close deals with customers,” said a spokesperson for WhatsApp.

On its platform, Reliance Retail is now on-boarding local kirana stores. So, when a customer orders using the JioMart app, the app maps the consumer to a nearby kirana store. The distribution is done either by the kirana store or by the logistics arm of RIL, Grab, which it acquired for $14 million in 2019. The kirana store earns a sales commission.

Reliance not only helps kiranas procure goods, but also offers the kiranas financing, inventory management and tax return filing services, among others, through its point of sale (PoS) unit.

The idea is basically to keep users within WhatsApp, and that’s allowed by the APIs (application programming interface). APIs will be designed in such a way for any catalogue-based service that it will continue to feed two-directional data to both Jio systems and what is front-ended on WhatsApp as soon as new inventory comes in,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst and founder of Greyhound Research.

The WhatsApp Business app has its own inventory management feature, enabling companies to create a catalogue to display and share goods and services. On the company profile, the catalogue is then shown. WhatsApp recently added a shopping button that allows consumers directly from their chat screen access to a company’s catalogue.

Although WhatsApp has its own catalog feature, many merchants use third-party apps such as Bikayi and Dukaan and then use social media to communicate with customers. Although common, they do not give the same level of integration that WhatsApp is attempting to create with JioMart.

“As an integrated e-commerce startup with WhatsApp, we have seen merchants find value through the messaging platform in managing, running and marketing businesses,” said Sonakshi Nathani, co-founder and CEO of Bikayi.

Banks such as State Bank of India, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank have launched WhatsApp Payment, which is available to as many as 20 million users. In November, it was allowed to go live on a peer-to-peer basis.

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Written by Jasspreet Kaur

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