By: Preety Chaudhary
TRANSCRIPT OF THE CONVERSATION Between Marne Levine, Chief Business Officer Meta and Akash and Isha Ambani, Directors, Jio Platforms Limited at Meta’s Second Edition of Fuel For India Event
Marne Opening Remarks:
Thank you all for joining us at our second Fuel for India event. I am so honored to be here with you all virtually, and can’t wait until the day I can get back to India in person.
As many of you know so well – India is in the midst of one of the most dynamic social and economic transformations the world has ever seen. Today, more than 700 million people in India now have access to the Internet — and that access is fueling the creation of innovative new enterprises, and connecting people in all-new ways.
India is rapidly becoming a global hub for innovation, leading the way and setting an example for so many other countries to follow – especially in a post-pandemic world.
Our goal as a company has always been to enable new opportunities for businesses of all sizes, especially for the more than 63 million small businesses across India. They are the backbone of the economy, and they form the heart and soul of rural and urban communities, alike.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve remained so inspired by how small businesses owners and entrepreneurs have taken this moment as a challenge to reinvent themselves. As the world shut down, businesses across India came online – many for the very first time.
We continually hear from small businesses that WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram have created new opportunities for growth — whether that’s using our apps to go direct-to-consumer, or to reach across borders and go global.
We are honored to play even a small part in the economic recovery story in India. But the real heroes are the resilient, optimistic, and ingenious small business owners and entrepreneurs that call India home. It’s their spirit – and their sheer hustle – that keeps us inspired, and pushes us to think about new ways we can do even more to support them.
India is truly a place unlike any other, and we’re continuously inspired by the way this dynamic country continues to innovate, redefine horizons and create new templates for the world to follow. And we can’t wait to see what’s next.
With that, let me now introduce you to two very special guests. Please join me in welcoming Isha Ambani – Director at Reliance Retail and Jio Platforms, and Akash Ambani – Director & Head of Strategy at Jio Platforms. A very warm welcome to you both – thank you for being here.
Isha: Thanks Marne. Pleasure to be here with you.
Akash: The pleasure is ours. Thank you, Marne, for having us over and congratulations on the second milestone of Fuel for India.
Q&A with Isha and Akash Ambani:
Marne: Among Reliance Jio’s many contributions to India, it has made affordable internet access available to millions of Indians today. And that has been truly revolutionary – both for people and for businesses. It’s part of the reason our company has been so thrilled to partner closely together with you, because we both share a vision of empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs.
And so first I want to talk about the future of retail in India. How do you think our partnership has been able to deliver on our shared goals, particularly in the midst of the pandemic?
Isha: We believe that small businesses are the bedrock of our country’s economic backbone. The pandemic really brought home the truth that small merchant shops, retailers, and small businesses urgently needed to convert their physical brick and mortar stores to digital storefronts
For us, it meant an acceleration of delivering our responsibility to enable them digitally. We’re glad that through the power of our partnership we could decide to quickly leverage the strength of the WhatsApp platform that provides access to over 400 million people.
With an equal number of Jio subscribers it seemed like a natural progression for us to be able to support these businesses not only through a digital connection with their customers online, but also to quickly develop and build very specific digital-commerce solutions.
Akash: Just to put some numbers, We currently have over half a million retailers and is growing everyday. We were very clear that the JioMart’s unmatched network -both in online and offline retail should be leveraged optimally, given the size of the opportunity.
We continue to be so excited about our partnership with Meta and in collaboration with the WhatsApp team, we intend to build out native features that will not only help users shop seamlessly on WhatsApp but will also help retailers increase stock assortments, improve margins and get them closer to perhaps a larger base of customers, like never before. They will be able to get new orders in addition to keeping their relationships with their regular user base intact.
Isha: For Akash and I personally, this has great personal significance, because it means that we are moving closer to my father’s vision of enabling millions of small retailers to become digital first via Jio and JioMart… which for us is a really motivating factor.
Marne: It is such an inspiring vision! JioMart is not only adding value to businesses but also having material socio-economic impact. Small merchants – or kiranas – have been the backbone of India’s economy for ages. And as more and more of them join the world of e-commerce, how has this transformed the shopping experience for consumers?
Akash: The JioMart experience through WhatsApp is actually, very simply put – ‘conversational’ in nature. WhatsApp is extremely simple and easy to use; So there’s no customer inhibition when ordering for supplies. It’s extremely intuitive – so there are no barriers to technology. And digital shopping is now just an extension of messaging via WhatsApp to JioMart, it’s all taken care of in a couple of steps effortlessly. Really, it is a revolution in consumer ease.
Isha: All a customer needs to do is to just order away on JioMart. Bread, butter, vegetables, beverages, everything that you need in your household that day or that week…Look up a product, set up a subscription for a regular buy if that’s what you want, or get personalized recommendations based on your past purchase history, it’s all there. Let us show you how easy and stress-free this really is for our consumers :
Marne: Just incredible. So simple, easy and convenient for consumers. But I know it’s taken a ton of hard work, and deep collaboration to make that experience happen – and to do it at a time when nothing was normal. So let me just say thank you and congratulations to you – Isha, Akash and to everyone at Jio – for making JioMart a reality, and for trusting us in that partnership. We’re so proud of this work.
I want to pivot slightly and talk about Jio’s strong subscriber base. Jio Mobile has brought millions of people access to affordable data plans. As we’ve said, that access has been transformational. But a plan has to be more than just affordable for consumers to really rely on it—it has to also be convenient to use and easy to access. This is another area where we’ve seen a lot of potential to partner together.
A majority of mobile phone users in India are on a pre-paid recharge format, which basically means that people pay for their phone usage rentals on the go. I’d love to hear more about how Jio Mobile recharge is operating through WhatsApp, and how it’s making that experience easier for people.
Akash: Am glad you brought this up. As Jio and Meta teams work closely, we are opening more and more avenues of working together. One such avenue is Jio on WhatsApp, which is simplifying the entire ‘prepaid recharge’. This will bring consumers convenience like they’ve never had before. There is no better way to demonstrate how we are going to transform the experience for our consumers than to show you what I mean. Let us walk through the life of a Jio consumer on WhatsApp.
Marne: Convenience at the fingertips of millions – I love it! Related to this, payments through WhatsApp are now live on the UPI platform. And I feel like the JioMobile recharge process could become even simpler for people as a result. Is that your thinking as well?
Isha: Yes, it makes it very simple for anybody to adopt. For example, for older citizens who at times may find it difficult to head outside, this Jio recharge feature through WhatsApp is so helpful! And payments on WhatsApp adds to that ease!
Akash: It is really exciting how the end-to-end experience for Recharge through WhatsApp along with the ability to make payments can potentially make the lives of millions of Jio subscribers much more convenient.
Akash and Isha, Thank you. It’s been so lovely chatting with you.
There’s so much exciting transformation happening in India right now, and we’re grateful to be partnering so closely with you and Jio. Like you, we believe we’re at an inflection point in India’s growth, and I can’t help but be inspired about the potential that lies ahead to help more businesses grow, and to create greater social and economic opportunity across the country.
Thank you so much for joining us today. I wish you the very best.
Isha and Akash: Thank you Marne. It’s been an absolute pleasure.