Reliance Plans Aggressive Retail Growth in India

·4 min read

NEW DELHI, India Outlining plans for India’s biggest conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. — which has crossed the $100 billion mark — billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who is chairman and managing director, affirmed expectations of fast and continuing growth in retail, where the company has disrupted brick-and-mortar and e-commerce.

Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting, Ambani revealed plans for a rollout of 5G mobile services, which will spur e-commerce as well as telecom, building on the more than 500 million current users of Reliance’s Jio mobile network. He was clear that retail, which crossed the 2 trillion rupee mark  more than $25 billion for the company, which operated more than 15,000 brick-and-mortar stores as of March 31 — would continue to be a strong growth pillar for Reliance, which is already among the top 10 retailers in Asia.

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He spelled out an aggressive entry into the consumer goods space and outlined a strong succession plan with his daughter Isha Ambani to head retail; his son Akash to head telecom, and his younger son Anant to head the new energy unit, although the 65-year-old Ambani made clear he was “not retiring yet and would continue to provide hands-on leadership as before.”

As the Indian retail market moves quickly toward the $1 trillion mark, from the existing $850 billion total retail market as of 2021, it has been clear for the past few years that Reliance Retail intends to be a major driver.

“We served over 200 million registered customers, equivalent to the collective population of the U.K., France and Italy, at Reliance Retail’s physical stores and digital platforms. We welcomed 520 million walk-ins to our stores, a growth of 18 percent year-over-year, and 4.5 billion visits to our digital platforms, up 2.3 times year-over-year. Our digital commerce platforms continued their growth with nearly 600,000 orders being delivered every day, an increase of 2.5 times over last year. JioMart, delivering in over 260 towns,” he said.

More than 2,500 stores were opened in the financial year ending March 31, spanning an operational area of 42 million square feet.

“I am confident that Reliance Retail and its leadership team, led by Isha, will deliver exponential growth and become the largest segment within the group,” Ambani noted, making clear the succession plan and leadership for the retail arm would lead toward more consolidation.

“Reliance is a formidable player in both the offline and online markets and has cornered the market to a large extent in the luxury, premium and bridge-to-luxury space,” Pankaj Renjhen, chief operating officer and joint managing director of Anarock Retail, a retail advisory consulting company, told WWD. “Their announcement of strengthening their presence in the consumer goods space is a smart move, given that they already have the distribution and points-of-sale. A part of the country is brand-conscious, but another large part is value-conscious. And shelf space is key.”

It is clear that Ambani, who has an estimated net worth of $91.9 billion, making him the second richest person in Asia and 11th richest in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, does not intend to rest on these laurels.

He revealed that he expected the company to more than double in value by 2027.

Reliance Retail has also been clear in its push into e-commerce — and the announcement of a fast 5G rollout is expected to strengthen its position in the sector, which is being targeted for aggressive expansion by global players like Amazon Inc. and Walmart Inc. (which owns a majority share in e-commerce site Flipkart). Committing 2 trillion rupees, or $25 billion, toward the 5G network, Ambani said that in the next two months, by the festival of Diwali, the Jio 5G would be available across multiple key cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. In what he claimed to be the fastest rollout plan in the world, it would be available in every town and district in the country by December 2023. Via a tie-in with Meta — formerly known as Facebook and using the WhatsApp business platform — India is WhatsApp’s largest market with nearly 500 million users and this is expected to enhance Reliance’s retail and online reach.

“Ajio, our integrated omnichannel platform, is one of the most loved fashion destinations, with 80 percent of purchases from repeat customers. Ajio Business, our new commerce initiative, works with merchant partners across 3,500 towns, giving them access to a collection of over 8,000 regional and national brands and a wide portfolio of our own brands. Last year, we sold over 430 million garments, which is enough to clothe the entire population of the U.S. and Canada,” he observed, adding that Reliance Brands “continues to bring more luxury and premium global brands to Indian customers.”

“We have acquired and partnered with some of India’s top names in couture and fashion through a curation-led approach, to better serve luxury customers in India and abroad,” he said.

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