Reliance started testing its online shopping portal three days after Facebook said it will invest $5.7 billion (Rs. 43,574 crores) in digital assets controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani. JioMart, an e-commerce venture of Reliance Retail, went live in three neighborhoods surrounding Mumbai, leveraging a deal that gives it access to WhatsApp’s 400 million users in India currently under the world’s most expansive lockdown.

The starting of the portal takes Asia’s richest man a step closer to his goal of setting up a digital platform to take on Amazon. and Walmart’s Flipkart for a slice of India’s e-commerce market that KPMG says is set to grow to $200 billion by 2027. Facebook hopes a partnership with JioMart will help make WhatsApp the primary way small businesses connect with customers.

“The roll out is happening during the toughest of times considering the supply chain constraints,” said Vikraman PN, founder of Finnoviti Consulting. “But Reliance will spread the pilot run in various states following its deal with Facebook. And WhatsApp will play a critical role in JioMart’s expansion.”

Customers need to add JioMart’s WhatsApp number 8850008000 on their phones. JioMart provides a link to place the order. Once the order is placed, it is shared with a grocery store on WhatsApp. The customer is notified with the order and the store details on his number, according to JioMartLite’s website.

A Reliance spokesperson declined to comment.

In a statement delivered by video on April 22, Ambani said the tie-up with WhatsApp will help almost 30 million Indian mom-and-pop store owners to take digital payments from customers in their neighborhoods.

“This means all of you can order and get faster delivery of day-to-day items from nearby local shops,” he said.

© 2020 Bloomberg LP

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