As Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart spend billions to make a dent in India’s retail market and reel from recent regulatory hurdles, the two companies have stumbled upon a new challenge: Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man.
Reliance Retail and Reliance Jio, two subsidiaries of Ambani’s Reliance Industries, said they have soft-launched JioMart, their e-commerce venture that works closely with neighborhood stores, in parts of the state of Maharashtra — Navi Mumbai, Kalyan and Thane.
The e-commerce venture, which is being marketed as “Desh Ki Nayi Dukaan” (Hindi for new store of the country), currently offers a catalog of 50,000 grocery items and promises “free and express delivery.”
If there is anyone in India who is positioned to compete with heavily backed Amazon and Walmart, it’s Ambani. Reliance Retail, which was founded in 2006, is the largest retailer in the country by revenue. It serves more than 3.5 million customers each week through its nearly 10,000 physical stores in more than 6,500 Indian cities and towns.
E-commerce still accounts for just a fraction of total retail sales in India. India’s retail market is estimated to grow to $188 billion in next four years, up from about $79 billion last year, according to research firm Technopak Advisors.
In an interview earlier this year, Amit Agarwal, manager of Amazon India, said, “one thing to keep in mind is that e-commerce is a very, very small portion of total retail consumption in India, probably less than 3%.”
In recent quarters, Reliance Jio executives have aggressively reached out to shop owners in many parts of India to showcase their point-of-sale machines and incentivize them to join JioMart, many merchants who have been approached said.