Facebook's (FB) WhatsApp Might Embed JioMart Within 6 Months

Facebook’s FB WhatsApp messaging service might get integrated with Reliance Retail’s e-commerce app JioMart within the next six months, per a Mint report. This will allow the 400 million users of India’s most popular messaging service order products without having to leave the app.

In April 2020, Facebook picked up a 9.99% stake in Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms at $5.7 billion. The deal, which valued Jio at $65.95 billion, makes Facebook the largest minority shareholder in the India-based telecom network. Jio Platforms is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited.

JioMart, a hyperlocal grocery platform was launched in May 2020 across 200 towns and cities in India to provide home delivery of groceries that include staples, FMCG products as well as fresh produce.

The plan to embed JioMart into WhatsApp could be crucial for a number of reasons including access to Jio Platforms’ more than 380 million userbase and to take on leading e-commerce platforms in India like Amazon AMZN and Walmart WMT backed Flipkart with Reliance owned online retail arm.

Markedly, Facebook’s shares have returned 13.1% in the past year, underperforming the Zacks Internet - Services industry's rally of 19% and S&P 500’s gain of 14.9%.

One Year Performance

Facebook’s Increasing Interest in India

Facebook is accelerating its expansion in a country that is rapidly embracing online payment and e-commerce. India’s e-grocery market size is pegged at $875 million and is expected to grow exponentially to hit $14.6 billion by 2023, per TechRadar report.

Notably, in 2020, India had over 700 million Internet users and this figure was projected to grow to over 974 million users by 2025, according to market intelligence firm Statista report.

Facebook is moving forward with strategic investments at a fragile time in the global economy. While many businesses have been hurt by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, large technology companies are positioned to benefit as more people turn to their services while spending time indoors.

In the recent quarters, Facebook has started to take interest in India-based startups. Earlier in 2020, Facebook invested around $15 million in edtech startup, Unacademy following similar investment in social commerce platform, Meesho.

Plans to promote e-commerce on WhatsApp platform is also likely to boost user growth for WhatsApp’s payment services launched in November 2020.

WhatsApp Payment & Digital Currency Drive

The Facebook-owned messaging platform has already launched WhatsApp Pay to enable small businesses and individuals in India to buy and sell things through the app. WhatsApp has had to struggle for over two years to get regulatory approval.

More recently, after facing intense criticism, WhatsApp has deferred its new data privacy policy by three months to May 15 so no user will lose their account from Feb 8 for not accepting the updated terms of service.

The government demanded that WhatsApp change its encryption to trace messages back to their source. WhatsApp earlier sent notifications to millions of its users in India over changing its privacy policy and users will have to “agree and accept” if they plan to keep using the app post Feb 8.

The Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company is looking at India for its crypto-currency project called Libra and to roll out tools that let users make payments and buy and sell products over the social network’s messaging services much like Tencent’s TCEHY WeChat in China. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

We believe that having Reliance Industries as a local partner could help the tech giant in navigating various regulatory issues, including those related to privacy and local storage.

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