“Terrible” isn’t a word generally associated with oil and telecom giant Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). And yet, that’s the sentiment its e-commerce venture JioMart drew recently from a distributor of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Turns out, JioMart sales representatives have been visiting kirana (mom-and-pop) stores partnered with the company once a month. “It should be at least once a week,” the distributor, who has operations in Chennai and Bengaluru, told The Ken

The information resulted from a survey of 100 kiranas by the brokerage Kotak Institutional Securities in Bengaluru in February. The distributor added that while JioMart onboarded around 9,500 stores in Chennai, it does active billing only with a third of those. 

That’s a lot of non-action for a segment touted touted Financial Times Mom-and-pop stores at centre of India’s $850bn retail evolution Read more  as the “centre of India’s retail revolution”, especially one that featured prominently in Reliance’s plans for JioMart. “In the very near future, JioMart—Jio’s digital new commerce platform, and Whatsapp—will empower nearly 3 crore small Indian Kirana shops to digitally transact with every customer in their neighbourhood,” was Mukesh Ambani’s grand statement grand statement Business Today Jiomart, Whatsapp to empower 3 crore kirana shops Read more  before JioMart’s launch in May last year. Ambani is RIL’s chairman and managing director. 

It was a simple proposition. The friendly, neighbourhood kirana would partner with the e-commerce firm to deliver groceries that customers ordered on JioMart, either on the website or through messaging platform WhatsApp. In turn, JioMart would become indispensable to these stores by becoming a key supplier and providing point-of-sale (PoS) machines. The PoS devices were to be a two-way street—the kiranas could order their inventory from JioMart through them, while JioMart could gather real-time data on the kinds of products sold by the stores.  

E-commerce giant in the making

Starting out as an online grocer, JioMart added fashion, electronics, and jewellery to its catalogue through the second half of 2020 and early 2021, though the availability of non-grocery products is limited.

JioMart rolled out in 200 cities and towns with the promise of expanding to more. RIL also raised an eye-popping $27 billion $27 billion Bloomberg Ambani Sold a Tech Dream for $27 Billion. Now He Has to Deliver Read more  in its digital services and retail arms last year on the back of JioMart’s potential.