Mukesh Ambani, a renowned Indian billionaire and chairman of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), is making waves due to his visionary plans, as revealed in RIL's 34th Annual General Meeting.
One of the meeting’s highlights was Mukesh’s statement regarding Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and blockchain platforms. He stated that the newly listed financial arm of Reliance Industries - Jio Financial Services (JFS) - will lead this direction within the group.
“JFS will consolidate its payment infrastructure with a ubiquitous offering for both consumers and merchants, further driving digital adoption for India. JFS products will not just compete with current industry benchmarks but also explore pathbreaking features such as blockchain-based platforms and CBDCs.”
JFS appears to be the rebranded name of Reliance Strategic Investments - the financial services subsidiary of RIL that was demerged last year. Currently, RIL has capitalized JFS at a whopping Rs. 1.5 trillion ($18 billion). Another notable fact is that JFS has entered into a joint venture with investment giant BlackRock to form Jio BlackRock.
The stated objective of JFS is to drive digital growth, consolidate payment infrastructure, and explore new technologies, such as blockchain and CBDC, for its products.
Interestingly, Mukesh Ambani initially avoided venturing into the digital coin space due to the taxes and restrictions imposed in India. However, since the rollout of the CBDC pilot program in India, several subsidiaries of his group, such as Reliance General Insurance, have started to accept the eRupee for premium customers. Additionally, Reliance Retail - the country’s largest retail chain - started accepting the eRupee CBDC in February 2023.
India entered the CBDC race relatively recently but is making quick advances. The initial plan to adopt a CBDC was announced in Feb 2022 in a detailed 50-page concept document. After that, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) launched the pilot CBDC programs for both retail (CBDC- R) and wholesale (CBDC - W) by the end of 2022.
Initially, the retail CBDC was launched in four cities - New Delhi, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, and Mumbai - with only four leading banks participating. As of July 2023, the retail pilot program has been extended to 15 cities, with Chandigarh being the newest addition. Reportedly, the response from participants has been quite positive.
It is still unclear which other Web3 technologies and products the newly formed division of Makesh's business empire will consider. Nevertheless, it is believed that the company is set to become a significant player in the industry, and we are adding it to our Observation map.