India's and Asia's richest person, Mukesh Ambani, wants in on the very lucrative e-commerce market and will soon launch a company to challenge both Amazon.com and Flipkart Pvt. Ltd, which is owned by Walmart Inc.
Ambani is founder and chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd, the largest company in India in terms of revenue. Reliance is also the first Indian company to exceed a market cap of $100 billion.
Reliance Retail, Ambani's own e-commerce platform, will compete in India against Amazon and Flipkart for dominance in the country's online retail market that should be worth more than $200 billion by 2027, according to Morgan Stanley. E-commerce in India is growing at 30 percent annually while the number of internet users now estimated at 500 million is also on the rise.
Analysts said Ambani's goal is to create an online marketplace similar to Alibaba's that will allow offline merchants and kirana (or neighborhood bodega) stores to sell their goods online. No definite date has been set for the launch of Reliance Retail, but it's expected to occur in the next few months.
Ambani is expected to heavily leverage the advantages offered by Reliance's huge brick and mortar retail presence across India, a market dominated by kiranas. Reliance can count on the resources of its 10,415 retail stores across 6,600 cities to give it a leg up on both Amazon and Flipkart, which was founded in Bengaluru in 2007 by two Indian tech entrepreneurs. Walmart acquired Flipkart for $16 billion in 2018.
A massive advantage accruing to Reliance Retail is the 307 million subscribers of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the mobile network operator owned by Reliance Industries. Reliance Jio has played a key role in getting more Indians online by subsidizing the cost of internet broadband.
"Reliance Jio introduced nearly free mobile broadband a couple of years ago and that really created an environment where everyone was really beginning to get addicted to using the internet on the go," said Dinesh Moorjani of Comcast Ventures to CNBC in April.
Reliance Jio already has "laid a lot of fiber into your home" and can use that to help with e-commerce, said Sanjay Nayar, head of KKR's India practice in Mumbai "If anyone can execute massive projects, it's Reliance."
A wave of government protectionism will also help Reliance against Amazon and Flipkart. Earlier this year, the Indian government issued new e-commerce guidelines aimed at making life difficult for foreign players such as Amazon and Walmart.
"Within the last nine months, we have seen a significant shift towards more protectionist policies, data localization, and preferential treatment towards domestic companies," said Nisha Biswal, president of the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "This is a worrisome trend that we hope will reverse course in the next term."
Ambani has a real-time net worth of $54.4 billion as of May 23 and is the 13th richest person in the world, according to Forbes. In contrast, China's richest man, Jack Ma, has a real-time net worth of $36.1 billion. Ma is the 21st richest person in the world.