Reliance's JioMart goes live on WhatsApp in select areas. Here is how it works

The service was rolled out in Thane, Navi Mumbai and Kalyan

Jio-Mart-Reliance-Whatsapp-Reuters Representative image | Reliance, Reuters

Just four days after Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Jio inked a multi-billion dollar partnership with Facebook-owned WhatsApp, the JioMart service has gone live on the messaging platform in select areas on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Jio Platforms, a wholly-owned unit of Reliance Industries, Reliance Retail and WhatsApp last week entered into a commercial partnership agreement to further accelerate Reliance Retail’s new commerce business on the JioMart platform using WhatsApp and to support small businesses on WhatsApp. As a part of the deal, Facebook is to invest Rs 43,574 crore to pick up a 9.99 per cent stake in Jio Platforms.

Reliance has now rolled out a WhatsApp based grocery ordering service in the cities of Thane, Navi Mumbai and Kalyan. Officially, it has not been commercially launched, so it may not still be available to all.

Customers in these areas need to add the JioMart number 8850008000 to their phone. Once the user sends an introductory message, the person is sent a link in the Whatsapp chat window. Once you click on the link, you will have to type in the name and address, post which you will get a list of items available and once you have selected items the order is placed with a local Kirana shop. Details including the number and location of the Kirana shop are then sent in the same chat window, along with a message that once the shop is ready with the order, a message will be sent. For now, the person needs to pay the Kirana shop directly at the time of collecting the delivery.

Sources say, this service has been in the works for some time now, but it is yet to be launched on a full scale.

“Reliance had launched a JioMart app-based trial with select customers in Kalyan, Thane and Navi Mumbai at the end of December 2019. The service has now gone live via WhatsApp in these areas,” according to a person familiar with the development.

Since the service is yet to be commercially launched, the app is still not visible on Apple App Store or Google’s Play Store. Due to the nationwide lockdown in place currently, there are several logistical issues that may be holding the company from a wider launch. For instance, in COVID-19 containment zones, people movement is restricted and deliveries may not be possible. In some areas, the local Kirana shop may not be still on board and even where they are on board, all the products may not be available.

“The model is likely to evolve (on delivery, completing the transaction on one app etc.) and for the best case JioMart needs to be visible on the app,” Anubhav Aggarwal and Sayantan Maji, research analysts at Credit Suisse said.

Reliance already runs the country’s largest organised retail chain, which comprises grocery stores under Reliance Fresh and Reliance Super, consumer durable stores, Reliance Digital and Trends apparel stores, apart from online fashion platform Reliance also operates large wholesale stores that cater to lakhs of small retailers and traders.

Jio Platforms already has a subscriber base of 380 million and India is the largest market for WhatsApp with 400 million users. So, partnering with and launching JioMart service through WhatsApp can give Reliance reach and scale in a relatively short period of time.

“In the very near future, JioMart – Jio’s digital new commerce platform and WhatsApp – will empower nearly 3 crore small Indian Kirana shops to digitally transact with every customer in their neighbourhood. This means all of you can order and get faster delivery of day-to-day items, from nearby local shops. At the same time, small kiranas can grow their businesses and create new employment opportunities using digital technologies,” Mukesh Ambani, chairman of RIL had said on April 22.

The Credit Suisse analysts feel the benefits from the deal with Facebook will take time to accrue.

“The key benefit of the deal is the faster adoption of the new commerce initiative on grocery. However, key bottleneck currently is to get a significant number of Kirana partners on board (as delivery can then be really low cost),” Aggarwal and Maji said.

Ambani has said that in the days to come, Jio and Facebook will also leverage their partnership to serve other stakeholders like farmers, medium and small enterprises, students, teachers and healthcare providers.

Reliance shares closed up 0.9 per cent at Rs 1,430.30 on BSE on Monday, while the wider Sensex gained 416 points or 1.3 per cent at 31,743.08 points.