NEW DELHI: WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Meta Platforms, is rolling out a shopping product in India, the first time users will be able to browse and purchase groceries and other household products without leaving the app.
WhatsApp unveiled the new tool alongside JioMart, part of Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms, a tech company that Meta invested almost $6 billion into in early 2020.
The new feature lets users in India shop for products from JioMart, and pay for them directly within the app. People could previously browse products via WhatsApp, but had to leave the service to finish the transaction.
Having a full-blown shopping experience inside WhatsApp has been a longtime goal of Meta chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg.
The social networking giant paid $22 billion to acquire WhatsApp in 2014, but the service is still a small part of Meta’s overall business. The app now makes money by charging some businesses to message customers, and also by selling click-to-message ads, which are ads that appear in users’ Facebook or Instagram feeds and then kick them into a private chat with a business once they’re clicked. Those ads already bring in billions of dollars per year across all Meta’s apps.
Zuckerberg is targeting a much larger business opportunity for WhatsApp related to commerce and payments, especially in emerging markets where the app is popular like India and Brazil. The CEO has spoken about business messaging on almost every Meta earnings call in the past few years, pitching the idea as a complementary business line to the company’s existing advertising business.
“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,” Zuckerberg said in a statement on Monday.
Part of the struggle for Meta has been related to payments regulation. The company tested payments in India for years before getting formal government approval in 2020 to expand the test into a full-blown feature.
JioMart, the online grocery push by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is competing with Walmart-controlled Flipkart and Amazon for a bigger piece of India’s growing online retail market. A partnership with WhatsApp could just give it a much-needed boost.
“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,” Ambani, who is chairman of Reliance Industries, said in a statement. “The JioMart on WhatsApp experience furthers our commitment of enabling a simple and convenient way of online shopping to millions of Indians.”
A Meta spokesperson said the company hopes to expand in India to team up with more businesses, and also aims to bring this shopping tool to other countries.