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Reliance Jio to compete with Paytm and PhonePe with its wealth management service

Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani now wants to make others rich.

Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecommunication arm of India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries, plans to enter India’s rapidly growing wealth tech industry that is currently littered by high-profile startups such as Alibaba-backed Paytm, Flipkart-owned PhonePe, BankBazaar, Scripbox, and ETMoney.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s brainchild Jio, which disrupted the Indian telecom market in 2016 by dramatically lowering the data prices, plans to use its three-and-a-half-year-old digital payments platform to sell mutual funds and other financial products, local media Mint reported, citing three industry officials.

At present, JioMoney allows its 364.3 million subscribers to pay bills, recharge mobile phones, DTH connections, as well as donate, send, and receive money.

“Reliance Jio has been working on rolling out financial services for a few months now,” the report said quoting a senior executive of a financial services firm privy to Jio’s plans, adding that the launch is expected this year.

The company has been beta-testing its new offering among employees for a few quarters now, just like how it offered Jio services internally before its official public launch. A Reliance Jio official on the condition of anonymity told Mint that this allows the company to test its network and infrastructure and plug loopholes before a formal launch.

The report also said Jio has obtained an account aggregator (AA) license from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that would enable the company to collect and share financial information with third parties after getting the user’s consent.

A November 2019 report by Switzerland Global Enterprise on the Indian wealth tech industry said the Assets Under Management (AUM) for the Indian mutual fund industry are over USD 345 billion with the total number of accounts standing at 81.8 million.

Over the years, Reliance has been laying down the building blocks of its payment ecosystem. After launching Jio Money in May 2016, Reliance set up its payments bank as a 70:30 joint venture between RIL and State Bank of India (SBI), known as Jio Payments Bank, in 2018. A payment bank can take cash deposits from users but cannot issue loans or credit cards. In January last year, Jio launch point-of-sale devices for merchants.

Jio’s move to get into India’s soon-to-be USD 31 billion fintech market would make the industry even more competitive. For the last couple of years, payment services including Paytm, PhonePe, Mobikwik, and Google Pay are slowly moving toward offering financial services such as lending, mutual funds, gold trade, and stockbroking. A new breed of well-funded lending and wealth tech startups such as ETMoney, Scripbox, Zerodha, Kuvera, Groww, and Cube Wealth are expanding aggressively in the space, while payment gateway services have also started eying the opportunity. For instance, PayU has invested in lending startups LazyPay, ZestMoney, and wealth startup Fisdom.

Kunal Shah, founder of wallet service FreeCharge and credit card payment startup Cred, in an interview in May, said payment services alone won’t be able to make money, and the end game for them is offering financial services.

“All the players are going to systematically move into credit. They will do lending and go for other financial services like insurance and wealth management,” he said. “The cross and up-sell of financial services is the only way to make money in payments.”