The holes in JioMart’s pitch

The good, the bad and the ugly of Reliance Industries’ hyperlocal retail ambitions post-Facebook

There are many aspects to Facebook Inc.’s $5.7 billion minority investment into Jio Platforms, the parent company of India’s biggest telecom operator. In our note on the day the transaction went public, we noted that the partnership “needs to complete the elusive triad of community, commerce and payments”. With an unmatched number of users compared to anywhere else in the world, it makes sense for both Facebook and Reliance/Jio to bet on e-commerce.

For Facebook it can serve as a proof of concept that WhatsApp can be monetized; for Reliance it is a natural progression as its retail arm is already the biggest in India and it continues to move from the high-margin refining and petrochemicals business to lower-margin, high-valuation consumer tech businesses.

To understand what is at stake and the immediate and long-term implications, we need to follow first principles of supply and demand. These two complementary and complex forces need to fire together for JioMart (we will assume Facebook/WhatsApp to be part of the same ecosystem) to make a significant dent in the Amazon-Flipkart e-commerce duopoly or even doom smaller players like BigBasket, which could be the first casualties as Reliance flexes its considerable financial muscle.

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