Adani looks to battle Reliance, Walmart in India's e-commerce, payments race, report says

India's energy and infrastructure giant Adani Group is plotting a move into digital payments and e-commerce, according to a Financial Times report, as the conglomerate seeks to diversify its portfolio and compete with Mukesh Ambani's Reliance, Amazon and Walmart's Flipkart and PhonePe.

Adani is considering applying for a license to operate on India's Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and is also finalizing plans for a co-branded credit card with banks, the report said. UPI is a public digital payments network that has become the most popular way Indians transact online.

This isn't the first time Adani, one of India's three biggest conglomerates, has shown an interest in digital offerings. In 2022, the firm launched Adani One, a consumer app through which it sells travel tickets, and the company's CEO, Gautam Adani, recently hinted at "future collaborations" with Uber following a recent visit to India by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

The conglomerate is planning to offer online shopping through the government-backed Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) platform, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

At stake is India's retail market, which is estimated to be worth $1.27 trillion by next year, according to analysts at Bernstein. Reliance Retail operates the nation's largest retail chain, and last year raised capital at a valuation of about $100 billion.

Flipkart is the biggest player in the Indian e-commerce market, which, according to Bernstein analysts, is expected to account for 10.4% of overall retail sales in the country by next year. Flipkart, valued at $36 billion, secured $350 million in new funding from Google last week. Amazon, for its part, plans to deploy about $3 billion in its Indian e-commerce venture over the next few years.

Walmart's PhonePe and Google Pay lead the mobile payments market in India. Together, they process over 86% of all payments on the UPI network, which handles more than 12 billion transactions monthly. Some of their competitors — and government bodies — are unhappy with Google and Walmart's growing dominance in the country's mobile payments market, but regulators currently have no plans to intervene.

Adani's planned payments services would be accessible through Adani One, according to FT, which also reported that Adani Group will initially seek to market its new products to its existing customer base of millions of users.

The push into the consumer market follows a tumultuous year for Adani, which has been accused of market manipulation and fraud by U.S. short seller Hindenburg Research. Adani has denied any wrongdoing, but the research firm's reports still caused the group's listed stocks to lose $150 billion in value.