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Meta Platforms enters grocery delivery arena with WhatsApp service

Company launches end-to-end service with India’s JioMart

A courier for India's JioMart, Meta Platforms' new grocery delivery partner in the country (Photo: Shutterstock)

The largest companies in the U.S. are jumping onto a new delivery trend. Amazon, Walmart and Target are just a few of the Fortune 500 firms that have tried their hand at on-demand grocery services. 

The list just got longer.

Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META) on Monday introduced a new delivery service that allows customers in India to order groceries through the popular Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp. The end-to-end offering is being rolled out in partnership with JioMart, a joint venture between India’s Reliance Retail and Jio Platforms.

“Excited to launch our partnership with JioMart in India,” said Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post. “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.”

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JioMart’s main competitors in India are Amazon and FlipKart, which is majority owned by Walmart. Meta in 2020 invested a hefty $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms, setting up India’s leading telecommunications provider as an ally in the country. Still, Meta is a minority investor in the platform, which has over 421 million subscribers.

“Our vision is to propel India as the world’s leading digital society,” said Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, which owns both Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail. “When Jio Platforms and Meta announced our partnership in 2020, Mark and I shared a vision of bringing more people and businesses online and creating truly innovative solutions that will add convenience to the daily lives of every Indian. The JioMart on WhatsApp experience furthers our commitment of enabling a simple and convenient way of online shopping to millions of Indians.”

Ambani, who is considered the second-richest man in Asia, soft-launched JioMart two years ago as a way to compete with Amazon and FlipKart’s presence in the country. Shortly after, the marketplace began an integration with Meta that offered an early version of the grocery delivery service to select users.

Watch: The challenges and opportunities of 2-day grocery delivery

The new end-to-end grocery delivery offering could prove fruitful for both Ambani and Meta. WhatsApp is used by an estimated 500 million Indians, more than one-third of the country’s massive population. The platform also recently extended its unified payments interface (UPI) service, which processes real-time transactions, to about 100 million people in India.

That gives Meta a large, preestablished market that can be easily reached through one of the most popular social media apps in the world. It’s worth noting, though, that WhatsApp currently faces an antitrust probe in the Delhi High Court, which is comparable to a U.S. circuit court.

Jio Platforms also announced on Monday its plans to roll out 5G services to “every town” in India by the end of 2023. The firm has set aside $25 billion to build the network. Jio is also working with Meta on immersive technologies like the metaverse. It’s also collaborating on cloud technology with companies like Microsoft, Google and Intel.

The success — or lack thereof — of Meta’s grocery delivery service in India could be a good indicator of the company’s appetite for a similar offering in the U.S. Earlier this month, it laid the groundwork for such an offering. The company signed a deal with DoorDash to enable two-day local deliveries of items on Facebook Marketplace, setting up the potential for a larger service.

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Jack Daleo

Jack Daleo is a staff writer for Flying Magazine covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel — and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.