For over a decade, India\u2019s young e-commerce ecosystem has seen one complete cycle of boom and bust where digital ventures were born out of one room apartments, then peaked to never-seen-before valuations to only either get acquired or struggle to stay afloat with mounting losses. Off the mark move This cycle, however, doesn\u2019t define startups alone. India\u2019s multinational conglomerates, right from Aditya Birla Group, Godrej to Reliance, and Tata, have also been a party to it. The desire to have a share into India\u2019s burgeoning e-commerce market have already burnt their fingers. Aditya Birla\u2019s fashion portal Abof.com and omni-channel player Trendin.com, Godrej\u2019s e-grocery shop EkStop, Tata Group\u2019s TataCliq and Reliance\u2019s Reliancesmart.in and Ajio.com have either failed to reach the size of existing large e-commerce companies in respective sectors or have shut down. \u201cIt is pretty shameful to see how large conglomerates behaved like school kids without even thinking about what\u2019s exactly they have done and spending few crore rupees,\u201d said Harminder Sahni, founder and managing director at consulting firm Wazir Advisors. Emails sent to Tata and Godrej didn\u2019t elicit responses while Reliance and Aditya Birla Group spokespersons denied commenting on the story. One argument around the failure has been the heavy-investments from abroad that continues to drive e-commerce. \u201cLarge corporates failed because somebody came with a huge amount of foreign money, doing multi-brand retail even if it is online business and putting other into a mess,\u201d Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO at Retailers Association of India. Another point has been that domestic large retailers like Reliance cannot show loses for a long period unlike Amazon or Flipkart. \u201cIndian law will not even allow our local retailers to be listed in case of such losses,\u201d said Kumar. Nonetheless, as we see the next phase of growth of the e-commerce market post-Flipkart deal, it\u2019s Reliance Industries\u2019 chief Mukesh Ambani who wants to become an option, for customers, beyond Jeff Bezos\u2019 Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart. But, after all, would Asia\u2019s richest man and Indian business magnate Ambani\u2019s latest e-commerce bet pay off? \u201cWhether Reliance succeeds or not is like gazing in a crystal ball,\u201d said Kumar. The question still is around government\u2019s ability to support Indian businesses. \u201coften rules are created in a manner that doesn\u2019t give importance to Indian businesses. Alibaba in China and Walmart or Amazon in the US have gone big because of government support,\u201d he said. However, for market experts, the answer to the question of Reliance going big in its e-commerce play is yes but with cautious optimism. The new third front Of course, Reliance has the groundwork in place in the form of near 300 million customers using its Jio service along with 10,000 outlets of its retail arm in over 6,500 cities in India. In fact, it has an entire ecosystem, much like Amazon. \u201cReliance has an ecosystem of entertainment, financial services, payment gateway, etc. Once it has customers hooked on to these services, then it is a question of time before it can start offering merchandise as well,\u201d said Arvind Singhal, chairman and managing director at retail consultancy firm Technopak. Moreover, unlike Amazon or Walmart, home grown Reliance doesn\u2019t have constraints around restrictions on FDI in e-commerce. This might give it a regulatory edge over existing e-commerce biggies. There is another contentious factor that plagues startups across sizes - profitability, that Ambani, hands down, doesn't have to bother. Reliance Industries reported a consolidated net profit of Rs 9,459 crore in the quarter ended June last year. \u201cRetail sector operates between 3-5% of profit and Reliance has been able to maintain that profit. Nobody would have thought that they would pull off something like Jio,\u201d said Naresh T Raisinghani, CEO and Executive Director at India division of global consulting firm BMGI. However, beyond capital and infrastructure, would Reliance have to work on the mindset shift, towards cash burn and delayed profitability? Experts, however, disagree. \u201cIf having a profit-mindset is a problem then why loss-making Flipkart was bought by Walmart which is profitable since last 40 years. Jio turned profits only in last three quarters after making losses since its launch. Reliance Retail started in 2005, didn\u2019t report profit till 2015,\u201d said Sahni. But Reliance\u2019s burn rate for new e-commerce venture is expected to be lower. With near 300 million Jio customers, it won\u2019t have to spend on acquiring customers, said Singhal. Also, since the company has a strong EBITDA in the physical retail, it can certainly leverage its sourcing, distribution, supply chain, private label etc., he added. Reliance Retail's EBITDA increased 20% to 1,680 crore in December 2015 quarter from the preceding quarter. Moment of truth While Ambani announced the new e-commerce platform to \u201cempower and enrich our 12 lakh small retailers and shopkeepers in Gujarat,\u201d but he definitely could have built it over existing Ajio.com unless it has to be limited to Gujarat. \u201cReliance does a lot of things as a pilot. Reliancemart.in and Ajio.com could have been pilots as we haven\u2019t seen any mega promotions of these platforms. Reliance Retail was first run as a pilot in Gujarat\u2019s Jamnagar facility of the company. Also, it had acquired a small local supermarket chain in Mumbai to test out Reliance supermarket chain,\u201d claimed Singhal. If all that falls into place, then Reliance might be able to work upon solving last mile delivery challenges even as it has a strong network of warehouses that caters to its retail outlets. The question still would be how does it serve every single customer with timely doorstep delivery, proper returns, refunds, fight fake products etc., to take pole position in the $38.5-billion worth e-commerce market.