Faizan Haidar, ET Bureau
19 July 2023
E-commerce companies’ share in warehousing space leasing has fallen to 3% amid declining demand from more than 20% during Covid-19. With the easing of the pandemic, demand faltered for e-commerce companies, even as bricks-and-mortar rivals rented 14% of space during the January-June period as they witnessed a demand resurgence.
In 2020, during the pandemic, e-commerce took more than a fifth of warehouse space while physical retailers had a 9% share, according to data by Savills India.
The overall leasing activity in India continued to grow, with a total space take-up of 22.4 million square feet in the first six months of 2023, up from 20.9 million sq ft a year ago.
“E-commerce companies had over-committed space during Covid, expecting the exponential growth they experienced at that time to continue. There are many facilities where they continue to pay rentals without utilising the full space,” said Gagan Randev, executive director, India Sotheby’s International Realty.
According to Savills data, after increasing demand for warehousing space over the past five years, tier-2 and tier-3 cities saw the share of e-commerce declining to 4% in the January-June period from 34% a year ago.
“In the past three years, year-on-year space absorption from e-commerce has undergone a significant change due to increased investments in their warehousing operations and footprint optimisation through automation, shelving and improved racking systems. These investments have enabled them to increase their existing storage space and enhance overall operational efficiency,” said Srinivas N, managing director, Industrial and Logistics, Savills India.
Experts said the companies are also looking to outsource the space they had taken during the pandemic.
“E-commerce overbuilt the capacity as Covid-led growth was harvested by them. Now that capacity is vacant. That’s why you see a lot of marketplaces trying to externalise their services. That is not coming out of a business model, that is coming out from vacant space,” said Ashvini Jakhar, founder of Prozo, which manages supply chains for companies.
In the first half of 2023, the third-party logistics sector continued to drive warehousing demand, accounting for 44% of the total absorption, up from 37% a year ago, followed by the manufacturing (22%), retail (13%) and fast-moving capital goods and consumer durables sector (6%).
“E-commerce, grew exponentially during Covid when physical retailers were constrained by prevailing conditions and immediately after that when chain stores were still recovering from the pandemic shock,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. “However, the retail business in India is predominantly offline; as demand continues to grow overall, it is only natural for physical retailers’ own growth to be driven by the market’s momentum and that would be reflected in warehousing space taken up by them across the country.”
For most retailers, after Covid-19, the warehouse is the epicentre for omnichannel distribution network for offline as well as online clientele.
(Published in Economic Times)
Sharleen D’Souza & Shivani Shinde, Business Standard
June 8, 2023
Why are companies finding it difficult to sustain the supply-chain business?
Experts point out that gross margins in supplying fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) are very low.
While it does look attractive because it is the largest part of the consumption market, the last-mile supply chain and retailer are not making money.
“FMCG brands have ensured high margins for their businesses by streamlining and smoothing their supply chains over decades and making them cost-efficient,” said Anshuman Singh, founder and managing director, Stellar Value Chain Solutions.
Singh said in rural markets, the costs of supply chains were proportionately high due to lower volumes.
He added: “The low margins in the last leg of the FMCG rural supply chain make it difficult for new-age rural distribution players to offset the high costs.”
Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer, Third Eyesight, a consultancy firm, said modern B2B (business-to-business) players had tried to step in to replace the traditional links in supply chains with price incentives and a large selection of products.
“Traditional distributors and wholesalers don’t just add costs but also add value, including aggregating demand for brands, disaggregating supplies for small retailers, providing market intelligence to both ends of the chain, and giving credit to retailers and a sort of financial guarantee for manufacturers,” Dutta said.
He said for their business models to work — online or offline — B2B businesses needed a significant concentration of demand, which had been tough to get in many locations.
On July 6, 2022, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), in the dispute between biscuit manufacturer Parle and B2B player Udaan, upheld the plea of the former, saying it did not violate competition laws. Parle had refused to sell its products directly to Udaan.
Udaan was the first B2B start-up to have a run-in with a well established brand, which was not interested in moving away from the traditional distribution model.
What has that meant for Udaan? It has meant tweaks to its business.
It further diversified its product portfolio so that its access to the market was not impacted.
It forayed into the mobile accessories segment as local brands tapped into its network of over 3 million retailers.
Earlier, this year it expanded its reach in the miller segment, which supplies staples like pulses, grains, wheat, rice, and oil.
Udaan aims to take on board about 100 miller partners per quarter.
It works with over 500 miller partners, supplying over 10,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units) to retailers and kirana owners, according to the company in an interaction with Business Standard.
The other company that recently had to tweak its business or go back to its focus on rural India is Pune-based ElasticRun.
B2B start-up ElasticRun has decided to focus on the core business and wind up its new expansion plans.
Backed by SoftBank and Prosus Venture, ElasticRun, which typically runs distribution for FMCGs in rural areas, decided to expand and also cater to retailers within city limits, i.e. tier 1 and tier 2 markets that had a strong distribution owing to companies having direct distribution in those areas.
“We initiated a pilot for urban markets. But through the year, as the macro changed, we decided not to pursue the urban pilot and focus on our core of rural business … we have to part ways with almost 2 per cent of our employees,” said Sandeep Deshmukh, co-founder and chief executive officer, ElasticRun, in an earlier interaction with Business Standard.
ElasticRun extends the reach of the brands’ direct distribution networks to deep rural markets. It enables access to a set of net new stores and customers, who were not accessible through traditional distribution networks.
The need to spend in order to get market share has caused well-entrenched players like Amazon to pull out of some of its distribution business.
Amazon India has decided to shut down Amazon Distribution, according to sources. This follows its recent decision to close down its food delivery and edtech offers. The moves are part of the annual operating planning review process amid global macroeconomic uncertainties. The e-commerce giant is looking to focus on its core businesses, sources said.
Amazon Distribution operates a platform where sellers sell FMCGs and apparel products from companies and distribute them among kiranas and small neighbourhood stores.
However, this unit operated in only three cities of Karnataka — Bengaluru, Mysuru, and Hubbali.
(Published in Business Standard)
Economic Times / ETRetail
April 13, 2023
There will be blood!
An all-out war has started in India’s FMCG space. At one end are the behemoths – HUL, P&G, Dabur, Marico, Tata Consumer, ITC, and others – and on the other side is the master disruptor, Reliance.
Known to change the market dynamics by venturing into new segments, Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Retail Ventures, a part of Reliance Retail, has now set its eyes on India’s over USD500 billion grocery retail market, as estimated by Euromonitor International. And the company is depending on its distribution channel and kirana partners to conquer this feat.
In the last couple of years, Reliance Retail has been slowly and steadily developing a distributor ecosystem to take on the FMCG giants. However, its strategy is different from the incumbents.
Helmed by Isha Ambani, Reliance Retail has announced its plans to go big on FMCG with the help of local brands and manufacturers. During its AGM last year, the company mentioned that it intends on launching affordable products.
To carve a niche in the sector, it is using four primary moves:
What can we expect from each of these moves taken by Reliance to take over the FMCG market?
Reliance Retail has been a few years behind in entering the retail space. It entered the e-commerce market as well in 2016. But the delayed entry did not stop it from giving a tough competition to its competitors. Reliance is perhaps planning to repeat the success with its delayed foray into FMCG business as well.
Out of the INR50,000 crore grocery retail market of India, more than 75% is still dominated by kirana stores. And Reliance is not just eyeing the 25%, it is working with kiranas, and hence, targeting the whole market and not just the organised sector.
Let’s deep dive.
Reliance’s ‘selling ecosystem’
The grocery retail market of India constitutes nearly 67% of the country’s total retail market, according to Euromonitor International. Within the grocery retail, the channels are further divided by modern and traditional retailers. The former covers hypermarkets, supermarkets, and convenience stores, while the latter consists of kirana stores.
Kirana stores are the lifeline of grocery retail in India — 75% of all grocery sales happen via this channel. A presence across this channel is imperative for any FMCG brand.
The biggest FMCG conglomerates are available pan-India across majority of kirana stores with their cheapest SKUs as well – this could be the smallest SKU, for example sachets for shampoos, or the largest to make it cost efficient and allow consumers to buy in bulk; read products like detergents.
In India, the grocery retailing is always driven by value and availability, and not just cost.
Reliance Retail Ventures started interacting with the kiranas during the pandemic the way no one had done before. The company decided to become distributors. It sold both its own products, and competitive brands.
Distributors form the backbone of FMCG sales in India. While manufacturers sell with no credit timeline to distributors, the latter allows discounts to wholesalers, who then extend a 30-day period of credit line to retailers. Retailers then finally sell the product to consumers.
Reliance is now on its way to becoming one of the most aggressive distributors in the country.
Abhijit Kundu, senior vice-president-research, Antique Stock Broking Ltd, says, “Reliance’s focus on the FMCG industry started with the distribution business. They are essentially creating an entire ecosystem of their own. They are now distributors of their own brands, their acquired brands, and competitor brands, all. And here’s the best part, they are providing one of the deepest discounts to wholesalers as well.”
Almost three years ago Reliance started its distribution business. The company is now developing that and calls it the “selling ecosystem” in its annual report.
According to Reliance Retail’s FY22 annual report, “The company has expanded its physical footprint into tier-II and tier-III markets, bringing the benefits of modern trade to consumers in smaller towns.”
“Extending its reach even further to reach India’s 200 million households, the company is building one of the world’s largest distribution platforms under its ‘new commerce’ initiative by leveraging its extensive supply chain and sourcing capabilities, as well as New Age technologies, to support and enable millions of kirana and merchant partners across the country, assisting them to modernise, provide easy access to a diverse product portfolio, become more efficient and generate revenue,” the report states.
The MCA filing of Reliance Retail Venture’s FY21 report says, “In the lockdown period, Reliance Retail established itself as the ‘preferred’ partner to kiranas by ensuring uninterrupted supply of essential items. JioMart kirana service, now active in 33 cities, launched self-onboarding application, aiding rapid merchant additions.”
Speaking of the developing distribution network of its own by Reliance, Devangshu Dutta, founder, Third Eyesight, says, “Disintermediation, that is removal of middlemen, is a natural outcome of consolidation of the market. However, even in the most developed and some of the most consolidated consumer markets, intermediaries continue to exist because they provide value in terms of aggregation of demand from smaller markets or segments, as well as providing some financial buffer for both buyers and sellers.”
Working with kiranas
What is interesting is how Reliance Retail is engaging with the kirana stores and using their strength to its advantage. The company launched JioMart in December 2019, in phases.
“Reliance is working very smartly as a distributor. Instead of giving deep discounts on all brands, across SKUs, the company is providing deep discounts on the fastest-moving SKUs. Imagine you run a kirana store, technically no one has loyalty only to one distributor or wholesaler. Now, if as a kirana store owner you know you need 10 packets of let’s say Surf Excel, 1 Kg SKU, chances are that kirana will order the same from Reliance, as RRL knows that is the fastest-moving SKU, and hence will give the deepest discount on that. The discounts offered by RRL are almost 15%-20% higher than what any other distributor is providing right now,” says Kundu.
“The same kirana store owner will probably order other things from other distributors, depending on discounts again. What Reliance is doing is focusing on the volume game, and on the fastest-moving SKUs and brands, cause as a distributor they know these will move, no matter what,” he adds.
According to a Kotak Securities report in March 2021, the average number of distributors that a retailer works with is 10-15. And foods, which include staples, dairy, packaged foods, beverages and such contribute 75% of average daily sales.
The same report surveyed at the time of freshly launched JioMart selling ecosystem kirana partners in Mumbai, the count of which was 60, and majority of these kirana store retailers surveyed mentioned that JioMart has lower pricing than other distributors and offers better profit margins. Around 37% respondents also mentioned that Reliance pushed its own private labels while having all brands in stock.
Isha Ambani during the 45th Annual General Meeting of Reliance Industries Ltd mentioned that the company now has a merchant partner base of 20 lakh partners and is adding 150,000 partners every month. The company has five-year plans to cover 7,500 towns and 3 lakh villages.
“JioMart, delivering in over 260 towns, was rated India’s No. 1 trusted brand for online grocery. JioMart works on a hyperlocal delivery model and is India’s largest deployment of omni-channel capabilities,” she said.
“The FMCG and grocery business of Reliance, back in 2021-2022, was nearly INR55,000 crore – INR60,000 crore already. And this was even before the company was involved in brand sales of its own. This was primarily driven by its distributor business,” says Kundu of Antique Stock Broking.
Acquisitions and private labels
Dutta of Third Eyesight says, “Regarding the FMCG and food/beverage brand acquisitions by Reliance Retail, while they are relatively small, they feed into a strategy that side-steps the need to create brands from scratch – both, as private labels for its retail formats and other acquisitions for its broader expansion into other retail channels.”
“Creating new brands takes time and success is not guaranteed, no matter who is behind the brand. Riding on the goodwill and awareness of existing brands provides a shortcut, and further growth can be fuelled by additional resources,” adds Dutta.
Clearly, something Reliance Retail seems to believe as well. Or maybe it just wants to shorten the process of establishing its retail brands’ presence amongst consumers.
One of the biggest acquisitions of the company was Metro Cash & Carry, the German B2B wholesale company. Reliance acquired the latter in a 100% stake sale for INR2,850 crore. This would give a huge leg-up to Reliance’s already burgeoning “selling ecosystem” business.
Speaking about this acquisition Isha Ambani said in the press release, “We believe that Metro India’s healthy assets combined with our deep understanding of Indian merchant / kirana ecosystem will help offer a differentiated value proposition to small businesses in India.”
Metro India, which entered in 2003, was operating 31 stores across 21 cities. The company was servicing nearly 3 million customers via its B2B channel, of whom 1 million (customers) were frequent buyers. As of FY22, Metro Cash & Carry generated revenues worth INR7,000 crore and losses of INR49.7 crore, as reported by Tofler.
In 2021, Reliance Retail also acquired online milk and dairy products delivery platform, Milkbasket. As per its FY22 annual report, the company integrated Milkbasket with JioMart, and there were double the number of subscriptions on the Milkbasket platform. The company seems to have dairy leadership plans as well. Reliance Retail has recently got RS Sodhi, ex-managing director of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), the parent company of Amul, onboard. Sodhi was associated with GCMMF for 40 years, out of which 12 years he held the position of managing director.
Besides, the company is also targeting the FMCG market with the help of private labels and acquiring brands. Over the last few years, Reliance Retail has spent nearly USD1.1 billion on brand acquisitions – this is across grocery and non-grocery segments.
Reliance Retail acquired Chaudhary brothers’-owned Campa Cola for INR22 crore, and relaunched the brand in March 2023. Moreover, the company has also announced its plans to acquire 50% of the 100-year-old Gujarat-based beverage company, Sosyo Hajoori Beverages.
Prior to that, it acquired 51% stake in Lotus Chocolate Company for INR74 crore and plans to take over an additional 26% of the latter eventually.
In the non-grocery FMCG category, the company has acquired lingerie brand Zivame for INR1,200 crore in 2020, 89% stake in Clovia — another more affordable brand compared to Zivame — for INR950 crore, offline lingerie brand Amante (owned by MAS Holdings) for an undisclosed amount, British toy retailer Hamleys for INR620 crore in an all-cash deal, majority stake in online furniture company Urban Ladder for INR182 crore, majority stake in online pharmacy retailer Nedmed for INR620 crore, and 26% stake of task-runner and quick-commerce app Dunzo for INR1,488 crore.
While not fast moving, but consumer goods nonetheless, Reliance Retail acquired couture fashion brands namely, 52% of Ritu Kumar for an undisclosed amount, 51% of Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, 40% of Manish Malhotra’s couture brand, and the company has joint ventures with Anamika Khanna and Rahul Mishra.
In terms of private label, the company recently launched Independence, which will have an array of staples such as edible oil, packaged atta, and packaged pulses, under its umbrella, along with biscuits. Reliance Retail also has private label brands such as Good Life, Snac Tac, Pure It, and Enzo. These brands cut across almost all grocery FMCG categories such as packaged foods inclusive of noodles, home cleaning, beauty and personal care including hand wash brands, dishwash, and floor cleaners.
The company is not limiting itself to only Indian brands – national or regional when it comes to its acquisition strategy. Reliance Retail in February 2023 acquired Sri Lanka-based Maliban biscuits, and plans to bring the brand to India, and clearly will now be targeting the biscuits category as well. Biscuits in India is nearly INR38,000 crore market, with leaders such as Parle Products, Britannia, and ITC.
The bottom line
Reliance Retail is targeting the FMCG market of India from all angles namely retail outlets, national and regional brands, private labels, and distribution.
However, it doesn’t end there. The company is also providing financial services with the help of Jio PoS terminals, which is used by kiranas for both transactions and supply chain management. Jio Financial Services is expected to become the fifth-largest fintech company in the country soon.
The company is not just foraying into the FMCG market, it is on its way to create an entire ecosystem in the FMCG market. While acquiring a consumer is obviously the end goal, it is targeting the spine of the FMCG retail of the country first – the kiranas.
The company has added 2,500 stores in FY22, taking the total count of retail stores to 15,000, covering 42 million square feet. It has also doubled its warehousing fulfilment area to 670 million cubic feet. Warehousing and distribution are at the core of its retail plans, clearly.
“Most retailers in India are small, family-run operations that operate at a subsistence level, and that receive the financial and operational support of the distributors and wholesalers. So, removing intermediaries from the distribution chain in India will take time, unless deep-pocketed players like Reliance decide to explicitly price them out of the market while also providing credit to retailers,” concludes Dutta.
(Published in Economic Times)
India’s economy is in focus globally, and is also at an inflection point.
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ET Bureau, Dec 23, 2022
Reliance Retail Ventures, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries and the holding company of the group’s retail businesses, signed definitive agreements to acquire German wholesaler Metro AG’s India business – Metro Cash & Carry India-for a total cash consideration of ₹2,850 crore.
As part of the deal, Reliance will get 31 large format stores in 21 cities as well as the realty portfolio that includes six store-occupied properties, 3,500 staff and Metro’s 3 million B2B customers, of which 1 million are frequent buyers. The deal is subject to regulatory and other conditions and is expected to be completed by March 2023, the companies said on Thursday. ET had first reported in its edition dated Oct 15 that Reliance is the frontrunner to acquire Metro’s India business.
Metro AG said in a release that the India business valuation implies a sales multiple of 0.6x based on sales in the year ended September and takes into account lease rental and other related liabilities of e150 million (₹1,320 crore). Metro India generated sales of ₹7,700 crore (926 million euros), its best ever, in the year ended September.
Metro expects a transaction gain of about 150 million euros and an earnings per share (EPS) gain, once the deal closes.
The move will help Reliance consolidate its presence in the B2B trade segment, which it calls new commerce and is among its next big growth drivers, intensifying competition with Udaan, Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart. Reliance owns and runs the country’s largest retail business. All Metro India stores will continue to operate under the Metro brand during an agreed transition period.
Reliance Retail Ventures director Isha Ambani said the acquisition of Metro India aligns with its new commerce strategy of building a unique model of shared prosperity through active collaboration with small merchants and enterprises.
“We believe that Metro India’s healthy assets combined with our deep understanding of the Indian merchant and kirana ecosystem will help offer a differentiated value proposition to small businesses in India,” she said.
Metro AG chief executive officer Steffen Greubel said it is selling a growing and profitable wholesale business at the right time. “Indian trade industry is currently experiencing strong consolidation and disproportionate growth in ecommerce, including the B2B segment,” he said. “Due to the market dynamics, a sizable investment would be required to further grow the business. Therefore, now is the right time to use the momentum and open a new chapter for Metro India.”
Metro said it aims for a leading market position in wholesale. Due to increasing market consolidation, accelerated digitalisation and intense competition, Metro India’s operations don’t fit Metro’s core growth strategy, it said. Abneesh Roy, executive director, institutional equities at Nuvama, said the price to sales ratio is 0.37, which seems fair, given the B2B segment is a low-margin business.
Reliance will gain a significant jump in revenue and established locations that it can expand or optimise under its own branding and formats, said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. “The additional shelf space will also be very welcome for its own FMCG brands,” he said.
(Published in The Economic Times)