Close up photo of red Jio SIM card

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries enters blockchain and CBDC space

Ahead of the launch of an Indian central bank digital currency (CBDC), key industry players are bracing themselves for the watershed moment in the nation’s financial landscape.

Reliance Industries, owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, has unveiled plans to dabble in blockchain and offer digital rupee services to residents. The company disclosed at its annual general meeting (AGM) with stakeholders in attendance as it seeks to diversify its operations.

Reliance Industries’ foray into blockchain and CBDCs will be spearheaded by its subsidiary, Jio Financial Services (JFS), according to the company’s statement. Apart from dabbling with innovative technologies, Ambani told stakeholders that the new subsidiary will offer clients legacy financial services with a solid adherence to existing banking rules.

“JFS will consolidate its payment infrastructure with a ubiquitous offering for both consumers and merchants, further driving digital adoption for India,” said Ambani. “JFS products will not just compete with current industry benchmarks but also explore pathbreaking features such as blockchain-based platforms and CBDCs.”

Reliance Industries has already dipped its feet into Web3 through its retail arm, Reliance Retail, which announced it had started accepting digital rupees in all its outlets under the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) pilot in February.

“This historic initiative of pioneering the digital currency acceptance at our stores is in line with the company’s strategic vision of offering the power of choice to Indian consumers,” said Reliance Retail’s Managing Director V. Subramaniam.

Analysts have tipped JFS to become a leading player in India’s Web3 space. Still, the company faces an uphill climb, given the hostile government’s stance toward deploying blockchain in the financial sector.

It remains unclear if JFS will offer users digital currencies outside the digital rupee. However, a claim to follow “regulatory norms” cast doubts on a full pivot for the Reliance Industries subsidiary.

India’s CBDCs push

India has been experimenting with a retail and wholesale CBDC since the tail end of 2022, launching a multi-layered pilot. After racking early wins in adoption, the RBI stated that it would proceed with a slow-and-steady approach to avoid potential pitfalls as it onboarded over 500,000 users in the first five months.

Despite claims of a measured approach, the central bank unveiled plans to onboard 1 million users before the end of the year.

The banking regulator expressed confidence in reaching the milestone by expanding the digital rupee’s use cases, adding new cities to the pilot, and improving the privacy features of the CBDC.

To learn more about central bank digital currencies and some of the design decisions that need to be considered when creating and launching it, read nChain’s CBDC playbook.

Watch: Blockchain provides perfect foundation for CBDC

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