India’s Reliance targets more retail acquisitions abroad

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India’s Reliance Industries is looking to buy fashion and child-focused retailers abroad and partner with global sports and beauty brands as part of its expansion into consumer markets, a top executive told Reuters.

Under Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries is pivoting from an oil-led conglomerate into a more consumer-facing company, selling everything from handbags to broadband to try to tap into Indians’ rising disposable incomes.

Reliance Brands already runs high-end stores in India with some 40 foreign partners, including British label Burberry, shoemaker Steve Madden and New York-based Iconix Brand Group Inc, through joint ventures and franchises.

It also wrapped up its first international acquisition in May, buying Hamleys, the world’s oldest toy retailer, for $88.5 million. And it is not planning to stop there.

“The Hamleys acquisition… has already whetted our appetite,” Reliance Brands CEO Darshan Mehta said in an interview in India’s financial capital Mumbai.

“Internationally, much of brick and mortar retail is in a lot of pain,” he added at the Reliance Brands office plastered with photographs of models advertising its breadth of brands.

“No wonder – what may have once been available for 100 is now available for 50.” Western companies “over built” their store estates and did not see the “e-commerce gorilla” coming, Mehta said. “Look around and you will always find many of them up for sale, whether it be in New York, London or Milan.” Mehta declined to give details on talks. He said Reliance had no timeline and often took years to strike deals.

“You can’t hurry love,” he said.

Reliance is already India’s biggest brick-and-mortar retailer in terms of revenue and number of stores. And Ambani, whom Forbes says is the world’s 13th richest man, is also scaling up his grocery and wholesale businesses.

Reliance Brands’ products are available at 788 locations spread across exclusive brand outlets, shopping malls and airports. The company is planning to open around 120 stores in India in the fiscal year to March 2020, Mehta said.

The company is also seeking to partner with brands in two segments where it so far does not have a presence: beauty and athletic lifestyle wear.

Multi-brand sports, wellness and fitness are the categories of interest for the company, Mehta said, adding women’s and men’s beauty products were also the target areas.

However, Reliance Brands – which Mehta said chiefly targets around 50 million affluent Indians – still remains a small part of the Reliance conglomerate, which made a net profit of $5.5 billion on $87 billion of revenue in the year ended March 2019.

The group did not give separate figures for Reliance Brands.

Separatley, set to create massive ripples in the growing digital streaming and video-on-demand market, Reliance Jio on Thursday commercially rolled out its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service “JioFiber” across 1,600 cities in India where the users will have an integrated experience of broadband, on-demand entertainment, voice-video calling and unlimited data, among others.

With the Jiofiber welcome offer, the customers will get TV, 4K Set Top Box, OTT App Subscription and unlimited data. Every Jiofiber user will get a set-top box (even with a monthly plan). Those opting for Gold plan and above will get a TV set.

The customers will enjoy ultra high-speed broadband (up to 1 Gbps), free domestic voice calling, conferencing and international calling, TV video calling and conferencing, entertainment over-the-top (OTT) apps, gaming, home networking, security and VR experience.

JioFiber plan rentals start at Rs 699 a monthand go up to Rs 8,499 and even the lowest tariff starts with 100 Mbps speed, the company said in a statement.

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and all of JioFiber has been designed with the sole purpose of giving you a delightful experience. The launch of JioFiber, with its revolutionary services is just the beginning of a new and exciting journey,” said Akash Ambani, Director, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

Jio has priced the plans at less than one-10th the global rates — to make it accessible for all.

“As always, we will continue working hard to bring more such amazing services to your home and take Jio Fiber to the next level. I want to specially thank our 5 lakh JioFiber Preview users, who have contributed significantly in perfecting our product and service experience,” Akash added.

In its 42nd annual general meeting last month, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) had announced the launch of its much-awaited Jio GigaFiber services.

Under the long-term plans, JioFiber users will have access to 3, 6 and 12 month plans that provides substantially higher value. Through bank tie-ups, Jio will provide attractive EMI schemes.

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