Ambani's Reliance fires opening salvo in fintech battle, launches JioFinance app

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Indian conglomerate Reliance Group is making its boldest consumer-facing move yet into financial services with the launch of JioFinance, an app that aims to be a one-stop shop for UPI digital payments, loans and insurance.

Jio Financial Services, part of Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani's $232 billion Reliance, is muscling into India's crowded fintech market with an app that offers a range of services, from bill payments to digital banking and insurance advisory -- putting the conglomerate on a collision course with hundreds of startups as well as Google and Walmart's PhonePe vying for a piece of the action.

The launch of JioFinance app follows Reliance, which leads the nation's retail and telecom markets, spending years getting its house in order to make a serious play for India's competitive financial services market. The app's launch marks a "significant step forward" in the company's "digital transformation journey to enhance financial well-being of every Indian," Reliance said in a statement.

Jio Financial said the app -- which also allows users to open digital bank accounts with Jio Payments Bank -- would eventually also offer lending and credit services backed by collateral such as mutual funds.

Jio Financial was a little-known, non-bank financial subsidiary of Reliance Industries until the conglomerate demerged the unit and listed it last year. Reliance still owns more than 80% of the company.

In the past year, Jio Financial has entered into several new businesses and inked deals with industry titans. It has partnered with BlackRock to offer wealth and asset management services.

Jio Financial said in its recent annual report that it was using alternate data models for personalized offerings to cut costs and tailor interactions.