India’s richest man to battle Amazon, Walmart in e-commerce

Mukesh Ambani, above, richest man in Asia, plans to expand his oil-to-commerce business to include e-commerce too. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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India’s richest man to battle Amazon, Walmart in e-commerce

  • The businessman plans to start his e-commerce business in Gujarat and then expand into the rest of India
  • He says his new e-commerce platform will help enrich small retailers and shopkeepers in Gujart

MUMBAi: Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani announced details of a new online shopping platform Friday that will see his oil-to-telecoms conglomerate take on Amazon and Walmart in India’s burgeoning e-commerce market.
Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, said the company’s telecoms and consumer businesses planned to roll out the venture in the western state of Gujarat before expanding across India.
“Jio and Reliance Retail will launch a unique new commerce platform to empower and enrich our 12 lakh (1.2 million) small retailers and shopkeepers in Gujarat,” Ambani told a summit attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ambani, 61, has been drip-feeding his e-commerce plans for India over the past few months in announcements that are no doubt being keenly watched by US giants Amazon and Walmart.
Reliance shook up India’s telecoms market in September 2016 when it launched its 4G Jio network with free voice calls for life and vastly cheaper data.
The launch sent the profits of other mobile players spiralling downwards and sparked consolidation across the industry as rivals scrambled to match Reliance’s deep pockets.
Amazon and leading Indian e-tailer Flipkart, which was bought by Walmart for $16 billion last year, have been expanding aggressively to gain a bigger slice of India’s growing online customers.
They have incurred huge losses along the way, however, and analysts say that Reliance’s entry into the e-commerce sphere will make their jobs even harder.
India’s e-commerce sales are expected to triple between now and 2022, when they are likely to pass the $100 billion mark, according to recent research by industry body NASSCOM and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The rise is being fuelled by greater smartphone penetration, in part thanks to Jio, and a rising middle class with more disposable income.


Saudi consumers splashing the cash once more, says Mastercard boss

Updated 26 min 16 sec ago
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Saudi consumers splashing the cash once more, says Mastercard boss

  • J.K. Khalil: We have seen an overall relaxation in the economy. It’s not yet back to previous levels, but there has been a positive trend reversal
  • J.K. Khalil: We are seeing an increase not just in the physical retail space, but also online. Consumers see increasingly that cards can be used online and offline

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian consumers are increasingly spending cash — and using their credit cards online — after a period of relative parsimony, the head of one of the biggest providers of consumer payment systems told Arab News.

J.K. Khalil, the general manager of Mastercard in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, said that there has been an appreciable pickup in consumer spending in the first quarter of 2019, in contrast to the slump that followed the introduction of value-added tax last year.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Financial Sector Conference in Riyadh, Khalil said: “There are positive signals that last year’s situation is being reversed. We have seen an overall relaxation in the economy. It’s not yet back to previous levels, but there has been a positive trend reversal.”

Khalil described the upturn as a “positive single-digit increase.”

The Mastercard regional boss said that the trend would continue. “We are expecting the second quarter to be better than the first, and we are confident that will happen,” he said.

A lot of the upturn has been in the form of online transactions, he said. “We are seeing an increase not just in the physical retail space, but also online. Consumers see increasingly that cards can be used online and offline,” Khalil added.

Some 30 million debit cards are now used for e-commerce transactions in the Kingdom, Khalil said.

Mastercard’s optimistic view was echoed by several participants at the Financial Sector Conference. Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan opened the first day of the event with the surprise announcement that the Kingdom’s budget had recorded its first quarterly surplus in five years.

Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, the minister for economy and planning, said on Thursday that unemployment was down in the Kingdom, even though there were a large number of new entrants to the jobs market.

Elsewhere at the event, which closed on Thursday, there were expressions that the Kingdom had “turned the corner” from the downturn that hit after the collapse in oil prices in 2014. One operator of a major retail chain, who asked not to be identified, said that footfall in the capital’s malls was ahead of last year, and the trend was expected to continue this year.