With rules limiting foreign direct investment and the use of discounting, India’s e-commerce battleground is shifting onto new territory, as the biggest players seek to build their own ecosystems incorporating everything from financial services to entertainment.

Flipkart, now owned by US giant Walmart, is on the verge of launching a new lending operation, utilising its own data on customers as well as external sources – it tracks between 500 and 1,000 data points to gauge ability and intent to repay – to offer them credit even when they don’t have a credit history.

“It’s still in a pilot basis for which we’ve opened it up to 10,000 users only, but in two to three weeks we should roll it out to the larger customer base on Flipkart,” Suyash Motarwar, Director Engineering at Flipkart, told the Economic Times.

“We have received an in-principle approval from the RBI and our lending partners are working very closely with the RBI to ensure we are compliant,” he added.

It’s an area with significant potential, given that there are only 45 million credit cards in India, compared with 931 million debit cards, although consumers are also able to avail themselves of equated monthly instalments (EMIs) which brands have used to drive growth when the economy is sluggish.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg noted a series of two dozen acquisitions and stake purchases by Reliance Group across the media, manufacturing, tech and retail sectors, and suggested these indicated the shape of the e-commerce strategy the retail-to-telecoms business is developing.

Earlier this year chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani explained how Jio, its mobile telco, and Reliance Retail would together launch a ‘new commerce’ platform, designed to benefit consumers, small retailers and producers.

The latest acquisitions include a company that provides customer support chat services using artificial intelligence and a logistics business that enables hyper-local delivery of food and groceries.

“With its own telecom network, Reliance in India can go way beyond Amazon and Flipkart,” observed Arvind K. Singhal, chairman and managing director of Technopak Advisors, a management consulting firm.

“The Reliance ecosystem – still in progress – for digital economy has multiple, very powerful components that include retail, entertainment, education and financial services.”

Sourced from Economic Times; additional content by WARC staff