India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani is ready to take on global e-commerce giants Amazon.com and Walmart Inc by launching a platform that marries online and conventional shopping.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Ambani’s company, will integrate Reliance Retail’s physical marketplace with Reliance Jio’s digital infrastructure to create the e-commerce platform. The plan was unveiled by Ambani at the 41st annual shareholders’ meeting in Mumbai last week.

Amazon and Walmart (which has announced to pick up a 77 per cent stake in India’s largest online retailer Flipkart) are investing in the countries retail industry where e-commerce sales may double to US$72 billion by 2022 from US$32.7 billion in 2018.

The service will be available to small merchants as well – enabling them to “do everything that large enterprises and large e-commerce players are able to do”.

“As Reliance transitions to become a technology platform company, we see our biggest growth opportunity in creating a hybrid, online-to-offline new commerce platform,” Ambani said at the meeting.

“We shall create this by integrating and synergising the power of Reliance Retail’s physical marketplace with the fabulous strength of Jio’s digital infrastructure and services.”

However, Ambani did not reveal a timeline or financial target for the e-commerce platform launch.

The meet also marked the company’s foray into the broadband market. The retail-to-refining conglomerate is looking to tap the online market after spending as much as US$36.3 billion in setting up mobile and fiber broadband infrastructure, media reports said quoting Ambani.

The much-awaited FTTH (fiber to the home) broadband services – Jio GigaFiber – will be launched in 1,100 Indian cities simultaneously. The registration for Jio GigaFiber will begin from August 15.

RIL aspires to be a technology platform company by integrating 350 million customers from Reliance Retail’s physical stores with 215 million Jio mobile users.

The company also announced the launch of its flagship JioPhone 2 – to be available at only Rs 2,999 from August 15. It aims to get 100 million users on board in the shortest possible time.

According to RIL, it has enrolled millions of users in just 22 months of the launch of JioPhone. RJio is already the third largest telecom operator in India in terms of revenue (20% market share).

“Even after serving the needs of over 215 million customers, the capacity utilization of the Jio network is less than 20%,” Ambani said.

Apart from the e-commerce platform and the GigaFiber broadband service, RIL is also launching other services to provide an ultra-fast wireless connection. The optical-based broadband service aims to connect 50 million homes in India.

India’s Richest Man

India has 121 billionaires – making them the third largest group of the ultra-rich after those from the US and China, according to Forbes magazine.

Mukesh Ambani keeps his standing as the richest Indian for many years now. In 2018, he got richer by US$16.9 billion with assets of US$40.1 billion, according to Time magazine’s list.

He also moved up to the 19th global rank on the list of 2,208 billionaires worldwide compiled by Forbes. In 2017, he ranked 33rd with US$23.2 billion.

The US has 585 billionaires and China 373 this year on the Forbes tally.

Ambani was also the only Indian businessman who made it to the Forbes latest ranking of “The world’s most powerful people”, ranked 32nd.