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Meta selects India for WhatsApp’s first e-commerce service

Meta selects India for WhatsApp’s first e-commerce service.

Indian residents can buy groceries through the chat app – for as long as the government is happy with the idea.

Meta’s messaging service WhatsApp will launch its first end-to-end e-commerce service in India through an alliance with giant conglomerate Reliance Industries’ digital business and mobile telephony subsidiary, Jio Platforms.

“This is our first-ever end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp — people can now buy groceries from JioMart right in a chat.

Business messaging is an area with real momentum and chat-based experiences like this will be the go-to way people and businesses communicate in the years to come,” said Mark Zuckerberg in a launch announcement released on Monday.

The WhatsApp shopping experience is limited to India and the online grocery store known as the JioMart catalogue.

The service is initiated by sending ‘Hi’ to the JioMart telephone number on WhatsApp.

Meta selects India for WhatsApp's first e-commerce service
Meta selects India for WhatsApp’s first e-commerce service

Meta selects India for WhatsApp’s first e-commerce service

The messaging app, once considered a sanctuary of encryption and user privacy, was purchased by Facebook Inc, now Meta, in 2014 for $19 billion.

WhatsApp is free, and Meta has struggled to monetize the service. How the Indian e-commerce tie-up might address that issue has not been explained.

Meta also owns a chunk of Jio Platforms, putting down $5.7 billion for a 9.99 per cent stake in April 2022.

Presumably, money will flow to Meta due to this deal, perhaps to show how the company plans to profit from WhatsApp’s two billion-plus users.

At the time of its investment in Jio, the company formerly known as Facebook said the deal was aimed at “creating new ways for people and businesses to operate more effectively in the growing digital economy,” including a collaboration with JioMart to enable customers to contact and purchase from local businesses through WhatsApp.

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Meta selects India for WhatsApp’s first e-commerce service

The transaction also gave Meta a footprint in India, a nation that has pushed back against the company’s plans.

Some previous Meta efforts to launch initiatives in India have been criticized as anti-competitive, such as a plan to offer free internet access tied to Facebook that regulators killed in 2015.

That proposed service would have used Reliance Communications’ networks.

India has generally sought to curtail the market power of tech giants, at times through legislation and with a government-run independent e-commerce aggregator designed to let small merchants sell online without going head to head with Amazon or Walmart-controlled Flipkart.

India’s Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 demonstrate government policy eloquently with a ban on flash sales – a tactic seen to be used by big tech to dominate markets – and a requirement that users must be able to identify out imported goods sold at online marketplaces.

E-commerce in India is currently dominated by the likes of Amazon and Flipkart – each holding about one-third of the market share.

It’s hard to see how outsiders will elbow their way in, but Reliance Jio’s 400-million plus users give Meta a good starting point.

But massive presence alone is no guarantee of success.

Tata, the conglomerate that includes tech outsourcer Tata Consulting Services, an e-commerce app called Tata Neu in May 2022.

Unfortunately, the app flopped, with users complaining about inconsistent experiences as servers crashed – a bad look for a company that claims expertise in building systems for other companies.

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