New Delhi: Over 700 million people in India now have access to the internet which is fuelling the creation of innovative enterprises and connecting people in all-new ways.
The second edition of Meta’s annual flagship event, ‘Fuel For India 2021’, which was held on Wednesday, showcased stories of India’s transformation, with a focus on digital communities, creators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. The event discussed India’s rapid progress in becoming a global hub for innovation, leading the way, and setting an example for so many countries to follow, especially during the pandemic.
In a conversation with Marne Levine, Meta’s chief business officer, during a virtual event, Isha Ambani (director at Reliance Retail and Reliance Jio Infocomm) and Akash Ambani (director and head of strategy at Reliance Jio) explained how the two companies — Jio and WhatsApp — are revolutionising customer ease. Edited excerpts:
Marne: Among Reliance Jio’s many contributions to India, it has made affordable internet access available to millions of Indians today. And that has been truly revolutionary — both for people and for businesses. It’s part of the reason our company has been so thrilled to partner closely together with you, because we both share a vision of empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs. And so first I want to talk about the future of retail in India. How do you think our partnership has been able to deliver on our shared goals, particularly in the midst of the pandemic?
Isha: We believe that small businesses are the bedrock of our country’s economic backbone. The pandemic really brought home the truth that small merchant shops, retailers, and small businesses urgently needed to convert their physical bricks and mortar stores to digital storefronts. For us, it meant an acceleration of delivering our responsibility to enable them digitally. We’re glad that through the power of our partnership we could decide to quickly leverage the strength of the WhatsApp platform that provides access to over 400 million people. With an equal number of Jio subscribers, it seemed like a natural progression for us to be able to support these businesses not only through a digital connection with their customers online, but also to quickly develop and build very specific digital-commerce solutions.
Akash: Just to put some numbers, we currently have over half a million retailers and is growing every day. We were very clear that the JioMart’s unmatched network — both in online and offline retail should be leveraged optimally, given the size of the opportunity. We continue to be so excited about our partnership with Meta and in collaboration with the WhatsApp team, we intend to build out native features that will not only help users shop seamlessly on WhatsApp but will also help retailers increase stock assortments, improve margins and get them closer to perhaps a larger base of customers, like never before. They will be able to get new orders in addition to keeping their relationships with their regular user base intact.
Isha: For Akash and I, personally, this has great personal significance, because it means that we are moving closer to my father’s vision of enabling millions of small retailers to become digital first via Jio and JioMart… which for us is a really motivating factor.
Marne: It is such an inspiring vision! JioMart is not only adding value to businesses but also having material socio-economic impact. Small merchants — or kiranas — have been the backbone of India’s economy for ages. And as more and more of them join the world of e-commerce, how has this transformed the shopping experience for consumers?
Akash: The JioMart experience through WhatsApp is actually, very simply put — ‘conversational’ in nature. WhatsApp is extremely simple and easy to use. So, there’s no customer inhibition when ordering for supplies. It’s extremely intuitive. There are no barriers to technology. And, digital shopping is now just an extension of messaging via WhatsApp to JioMart, it’s all taken care of in a couple of steps effortlessly. Really, it is a revolution in consumer ease.
Isha: All a customer needs to do is to just order away on JioMart. Bread, butter, vegetables, beverages, everything that you need in your household that day or that week… Look up a product, set up a subscription for a regular buy if that’s what you want, or get personalised recommendations based on your past purchase history, it’s all there.
Marne: Just incredible. So simple, easy and convenient for consumers. But I know it’s taken a ton of hard work, and deep collaboration to make that experience happen – and to do it at a time when nothing was normal. So let me just say thank you and congratulations to you — Isha, Akash and to everyone at Jio — for making JioMart a reality, and for trusting us in that partnership.
We’re so proud of this work. A majority of mobile phone users in India are on a pre-paid recharge format, which basically means that people pay for their phone usage rentals on the go. I’d love to hear more about how Jio Mobile recharge is operating through WhatsApp, and how it’s making that experience easier for people.
Akash: Am glad you brought this up. As Jio and Meta teams work closely, we are opening more and more avenues of working together. One such avenue is Jio on WhatsApp, which is simplifying the entire ‘prepaid recharge’. This will bring consumers convenience like they’ve never had before. There is no better way to demonstrate how we are going to transform the experience for our consumers than to show you what I mean. Let us walk through the life of a Jio consumer on WhatsApp.
Marne: Convenience at the fingertips of millions, I love it! Related to this, payments through WhatsApp are now live on the UPI platform. And I feel like the JioMobile recharge process could become even simpler for people as a result. Is that your thinking as well?
Isha: Yes, it makes it very simple for anybody to adopt. For example, for older citizens who at times may find it difficult to head outside, this Jio recharge feature through WhatsApp is so helpful! And payments on WhatsApp adds to that ease!
Akash: It is really exciting how the end-to-end experience for recharge through WhatsApp along with the ability to make payments can potentially make the lives of millions of Jio subscribers much more convenient.
Marne: Akash and Isha, Thank you. It’s been so lovely chatting with you. There’s so much exciting transformation happening in India right now, and we’re grateful to be partnering so closely with you and Jio. Thank you so much for joining us today. I wish you the very best.
Isha and Akash: Thank you Marne. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
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