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WhatsApp grocery ordering in India is a first step in fulfilling Mark Zuckerberg’s super app dreams

August 30, 2022, 7:59 AM UTC
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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Silicon Slopes tech summit in Salt Lake City, January 2020.
George Frey—Bloomberg/Getty Images

People in India will soon be able to order their groceries through WhatsApp.

On Monday, WhatsApp parent Meta announced a new partnership with JioMart, an online grocery store owned by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, that will let WhatsApp users in India shop for groceries directly through the WhatsApp app. WhatsApp users can message the word “hi” to JioMart’s number to start shopping. JioMart’s chatbot responds with a catalog of groceries to order. Users type in their address and pay for the groceries through the app, according to a new ad for the service.

“This is our first-ever end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp—people can now buy groceries from JioMart right in a chat,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook. “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,” he said.

The new service may be the first step in fulfilling Zuckerberg’s goal of creating a super app.

In 2019, Zuckerberg laid out his ambitions to turn Meta’s platforms into an all-in-one tool that could centralize “calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and…many other kinds of private services.”

Later that year, Zuckerberg lamented that he didn’t listen to advice from The Information’s Jessica Lessin in 2015 to copy the success of WeChat, a messaging app turned super app owned by China’s Tencent Holdings.

In China, WeChat is like WhatsApp, Uber, Fortnite, and Instagram all rolled into one. It is a messaging app that contains an entire ecosystem of mini-apps. Users pay their bills, buy groceries, and play games without leaving WeChat.

WhatsApp’s new grocery ordering service in India may help Meta further monetize WhatsApp after purchasing the app for $19 billion in 2014. Unlike Meta’s other platforms Facebook and Instagram, WhatsApp doesn’t earn money through direct ads. Instead, businesses pay WhatsApp for the ability to message potential customers who click on Facebook or Instagram ads.

India is WhatsApp’s largest market with over 500 million users, and businesses there rely on the app to connect with customers and employees.

Last October, Meta’s social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down for five hours globally. The outage hit India particularly hard. A CEO of a power generator company told Fortune at the time that without WhatsApp he could not communicate with hospitals, schools, and other institutions that might need him to supply power in emergencies.

The new WhatsApp grocery partnership with JioMart formalizes the app’s role as a business tool and tightens the bond between Meta and Reliance Industries two years after Meta, then called Facebook, invested $5.7 billion for a 9.9% stake in Jio Platforms, Reliance Industries’ tech arm.

“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,” Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, said in a press release Monday.

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