Reliance Industries, the Indian conglomerate, plans to diversity into e-commerce and will soon launch a “new commerce” platform across the country in a move that it claims will benefit 30 million small shopkeepers.

The new platform is a joint initiative between Reliance Retail, the largest retailer in India, and Jio, Reliance’s rapidly growing 4G mobile network with nearly 300 million customers.

“Jio and Reliance Retail will shortly launch a unique ‘new commerce’ platform, which will bring win-win benefits to consumers, retailers and producers,” said Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, in comments reported by Business Today.

“Across the country, this platform will enrich and empower as many as 3 crore small shopkeepers,” he added during his address to the Bengal Global Business Summit in Kolkata.

According to several industry observers, Reliance’s new online venture is likely to become a dominant third player in the Indian e-commerce market, alongside Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

It may even gain an edge over its American rivals because of controversial new regulations governing foreign direct investment (FDI) that are widely viewed as being designed to boost Indian retailers.

But a key advantage for Reliance is that it already has an established and large customer base covering both retail and mobile networks.

“Reliance has an ecosystem of entertainment, financial services, payment gateway, etc. Once it has customers hooked on to these services, then it is a question of time before it can start offering merchandise as well,” said Arvind Singhal, chairman and managing director at Technopak, a retail consultancy.

He went on to tell the Financial Express that Reliance won’t need to spend much on acquiring customers because 300 million people already use Jio and that the company also will be able to leverage the sourcing, distribution and private label capabilities of its retail arm.

Delegates at the Bengal business summit were also told by Ambani, the richest man in India, that Reliance plans to invest a further Rs 10,000 crore (US$100bn) in West Bengal state.

Ambitious plans include extending the Jio network to 100% of the state’s population by the end of 2019, including the establishment of about 1,000 Jio points in rural areas, transforming “all homes in West Bengal into smart homes” as well as completing a data centre in the state to rival similar ones in Silicon Valley.

“There is no area of the economy, governance or life which is untouched by the revolutionary potential of digital economies,” Ambani said.

Sourced from Business Today, India today, Financial Express; additional content by WARC staff