Huge opportunity in India to buy and sell through WhatsApp: Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg said a big part of the partnership that Facebook has with telecom network Jio will be to wire up and get thousands of small businesses across India on-boarded onto WhatsApp
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said there is a huge opportunity to help small businesses in India transact through messaging platform WhatsApp, and if it is successful, the firm will expand the model to other countries as well.

“We want to enable that,” said Zuckerberg, during a second quarter (Q2) earnings call. “That starts with enabling payments.”

He said a big part of the partnership that Facebook has with Reliance Industries’ (RIL’s) Jio Platforms will be to wire up and get thousands of small businesses across India onboard WhatsApp. India is WhatsApp's biggest market, with over 400 million users, according to industry sources.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity there (India),” said Zuckerberg. “And, once we prove that with Jio in India, we’re planning on expanding it to more folks in India and to other countries as well. But, there’s no doubt that India is a huge opportunity.” Jio Platforms, which includes Jio and e-commerce venture JioMart, raised $20 billion in three months from investors such as Facebook, Google, Silver Lake and KKR. This includes the $5.7 billion Facebook invested in April.

This month, JioMart, Reliance Retail’s beta online consumer grocery platform, debuted on app stores. The platform aims to expand digital shopping for essentials by taking the service to several tier-II and tier-III cities, where customers will experience online shopping and home delivery of grocery and staples for the first time. JioMart is taking on rivals such as Walmart-backed Flipkart and Amazon, which are also rapidly bringing kirana stores and neighbourhood shops onto their platforms. Only 7 per cent of the $1.2-trillion retail market is online, and these players are aggressively eyeing the remaining 93 per cent.

During the earnings call, Zuckerberg said India was the largest country that the company is already serving. When asked to comment on efforts to introduce WhatsApp Pay in India and Brazil, Zuckerberg said that the company is working with regulators in these countries. “We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to move forward. Although it’s taking longer than we would ideally like,” said Zuckerberg.

Abhijit Bose, WhatsApp India head, had announced plans to foray into lending, micro-insurance, and pension products.

Sources say Facebook’s rival Google is also foraying into the digital lending space in India, which is set to become a $1 trillion opportunity in the next five years. Its digital payments app, Google Pay, is forging strategic partnerships with fintech firms to offer credit to consumers.

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