Meta is putting its $6 billion stake in Indian internet provider Reliance Jio to work, via a new eCommerce integration for WhatsApp, called ‘JioMart’, which will enable Indian WhatsApp users to browse and shop within the WhatsApp UI.
As you can see in these example screens, JioMart is essentially an online shopping platform within WhatsApp, which will help Meta expand its eCommerce push in the world’s second most populous nation.
As explained by Meta:
“JioMart on WhatsApp will enable people in India, including those who have never shopped online before, to seamlessly browse through JioMart’s entire grocery catalog. Shoppers can add items to their cart and make a payment to complete the purchase — all without leaving the WhatsApp chat.”
It’s a major step for Meta’s larger eCommerce plans, and its monetization strategy for India, which is now its biggest user market.
Indeed, WhatsApp alone is used by 487 million people India each month, and with that huge user base, Meta has been working to make WhatsApp the essential app for connectivity in the region, similar to how Chinese messaging apps have become essential utilities in mainland China.
But Meta itself is not entirely trusted by Indian users, or local authorities.
Meta’s first big push into India, called ‘Free Basics’, aimed to help get more Indian citizens connected to the internet. But that it was an internet that was essentially controlled by Meta, and eventually, the Indian government, concerned about Meta’s financial motivations for the project, shut it down, which forced Meta to look elsewhere.
Facebook too has had its share of challenges in the region, and while WhatsApp has thrived, and Instagram has surged following the removal of TikTok in the market, Facebook - and by extension Meta - is still far from a loved brand name to many locals.
Which is why the association with Reliance Jio here makes sense.
Back in 2020, Meta bought a 9.99% stake in Jio Platforms, one of the key telecom networks in India, for a massive $5.7 billion, the company’s largest single investment action ever. Reliance Jio provides internet access to over 420 million users, and Meta will be hoping to utilize Jio’s local reputation and presence to help boost its eCommerce program.
Hence, it’s called JioMart, not ‘MetaMart’ or ‘Facebook Shops’.
JioMart itself has actually been in operation on WhatsApp since 2020, providing various eCommerce subsidiary services, likes shipment tracking.
But now, Meta is putting its years of investment and building to the test - which could be a big step for the company’s broader plans.
If Indian users start shopping in WhatsApp. The signals here suggest that this could be a key opportunity, but again, skepticism around Meta remains, which could hamper take-up, and limit usage.
But it is an important step, either way, the culmination of years of ongoing work by Meta to crack the Indian market.
Many challenges remain, but if Meta can further integrate its tools into Indian society, the potential value for the company is massive.