Suprita Anupam, Inc42
Jul 25, 2023
– Following a stock downgrade, Nykaa might lose some visibility among public market investors at a time when competition in the beauty ecommerce space is intensifying
– Nykaa, which has been the most popular beauty marketplace, has had to fight off Reliance Tira, Flipkart-owned Myntra, Tata CLiQ and others but has to invest heavily in omnichannel and private label expansion
– As its profitability and traction have declined, Nykaa needs to fix things for the long run without losing too much money as it does not have the capital reserves similar to its rivals
In the first week of July, the Nykaa stock took a significant hit, falling 42% from its 52-week high. Further, the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) downgraded the stock, dropping it from the top 100 listed companies in the country. As of now, the company is ranked somewhere between 101 and 250 on the market capitalisation threshold.
From a near monopoly in the beauty ecommerce space, Nykaa has lost its top spot. Not to mention, new competition, in the form of D2C brands and behemoths such as Tata and Reliance, has complicated the situation even more.
The downgrade by the AMFI means that Nykaa is no longer an attractive largecap stock in India, and this could have an impact on the company’s visibility in the near future.
So, what exactly triggered this collapse?
It was only in November 2021 that Nykaa’s INR 5,352 Cr IPO saw 82x subscription, the highest among large startup IPOs in India. Having withstood competition from marketplaces such as Amazon India and Walmart-backed Flipkart and Myntra, Nykaa seemingly set a new benchmark for Indian ecommerce startups with its blockbuster IPO.
But the last 20 months have been nothing short of disruptive. Reliance-backed AJIO has grown in stature, and the Indian conglomerate has also launched Tira in the beauty ecommerce space.
Meanwhile, Tata has also bolstered its beauty and personal care product assortment on its platform Tata CLiQ. Furthermore, the Tatas have added 20 beauty tech stores across the country, aligned with its ecommerce operations, while Myntra Beauty has registered 2X-3X growth in recent months and expanded its brand collection. Therefore, Nykaa needs to come up with something exceptional to compete with the aforementioned well-funded BPC contenders.
Adding to the company’s woes was the announcement of the issue of bonus shares in a 5:1 ratio and changes in key management personnel after a successful IPO. This did not go down well with investors. Bonus shares announcement was largely perceived as a way to keep the company’s anchor investors from offloading shares at the end of their IPO lock-in period.
Experts believe that amid declining year-on-year profitability, Nykaa could see a cash crunch as it prepares to combat with deep-pocketed corporations. For now, it will be interesting to see if Nykaa can hold onto its market share?
Nykaa’s Losing Its Footfall To AJIO & Myntra
First, let’s look at the bread-and-butter for ecommerce platforms such as Nykaa — that is visits, page views, engagement and repeat orders.
It must be noted that Nykaa has separate properties for fashion (Nykaafashion.com) and beauty (nykaa.com). If we look at the performance over the last 3-4 months, the fashion vertical has definitely seen some gains, but Nykaa.com itself has experienced negative growth in total visits.
The flagship property is bleeding users due to an ever-intensifying competition, which is quite clear in the graph given below.
Further, Nykaa, Nykaa Man and Nykaa Fashion have the lowest numbers when it comes to average visit durations.
On the ecommerce front, Nykaa has a lot of catching up to do against its competitors. Some of Nykaa’s private labels — take Dot&Key for instance — have become popular discounted items on Myntra, AJIO, Amazon India and other marketplaces, which shows that the company is forced to use its competition to sell its products.
In contrast, Myntra, AJIO, Tira and Amazon’s private labels are largely walled inside their respective marketplaces. To beat the competition and stay in the public spotlight, Nykaa has opted for the omnichannel strategy, and it is looking to add brand-owned stores on the retail front. But here too, the competition is stiff.
Nykaa Faces Challenges With Its Online-To-Offline Strategy
When we look at the omnichannel operations, Nykaa has 145 physical stores, 38 fulfilment centres, and 2,749 stores of its owned brands. The company plans to open more physical stores this year, according the announcements made in its last earnings call.
Nykaa’s founder and CEO Falguni Nayar had earlier said, “Physical retail is a necessary investment that we need to make, even if it adversely affects overall profitability. So, we are aiming for the optimal mix of online, offline, and duty.”
This is where the situation becomes more complicated. Being primarily an online platform, Nykaa has managed to stay lean and achieve profits thus far. However, opening more stores means more investments and a significant increase in operational expenditure, including higher employee expenses.
Plus, this entails entering into fierce competition with Tata and Reliance.
Reliance Retail alone has launched over 3,300 new stores in FY23 under its various brands, including Tira Beauty, Trends, and others.
Similarly, Tata has been a well-known name in the BPC and fashion industry. It introduced the first-ever cosmetics brand, Lakme Cosmetics, to India (later sold to Unilever). Tata has over 22 in-house labels for its Westside brand, which operates over 200 stores across the country.
While Tata plans to open 20 beauty tech stores, equipped with AI and VR, it already has 391 Zudio stores nationwide.
For Tata and Reliance, it is relatively easier to build an online business backed by their offline stores compared to Nykaa’s strategy of building an offline presence backed by online operations. These large conglomerates have years of experience in building retail brands in the offline space.
So, essentially, Nykaa seems to have lost ground in its strength areas of ecommerce and offline retail, as it is not as experienced as its rivals.
Speaking to Inc42, Devangshu Dutta, the founder and CEO of Third Eyesight, a boutique management consulting firm explained, “Apart from the impact of Covid, in the last 3-4 years, many brands have started moving offline because that’s where the bulk of the business happens. But moving offline means entering a completely different business. You’re not able to centralise inventory as much, and you may not be able to respond to market-specific segments as quickly.”
He also believes, like any other offline retail business, Nykaa will face high operational costs, but it has an advantage in the fact that it may be able to use data more effectively from its online operations. Nevertheless, this is a minor advantage.
“Your store locations have to be correct, and self-sustaining quickly, at least on a cash operating basis. At the business level you may look at profitability in a longer term,” Dutta added.
Profits Plummet: Nykaa’s Other Big Worry
India’s beauty and personal care market, presently valued at $16.8 Bn, is poised to grow at a compound annual rate of 11%, with cosmetics and perfumes categories growing at a faster clip.
According to a joint report by international beauty brand Estée Lauder and Gurugram-based business insights firm 1Lattice, a substantial portion of sales worth about $1.3 Bn are through ecommerce channels. This is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30% during FY22-27, followed by companies that retail beauty products in health and beauty stores and modern retail shops.
With 30% of India’s BPC market share, Nykaa has so far managed to stay ahead in the race. Nykaa’s beauty category (55% of the broad BPC category) saw 33% full-year growth with a GMV of INR 6,649 Cr. On the fashion side, the GMV grew 47% for the full year at INR 2,570 Cr.
BPC and fashion are the two mainstays of Nykaa’s business, even though fashion is a relatively new vertical for the Mumbai-based company. The company had earlier launched Nykaa Man, a separate platform for men’s grooming, beauty and fashion, but with less than 1 Mn visits, it has failed to grow over the last few years while AJIO has grown from 0-37 Mn users, as per analysts.
“At one end, Nykaa’s online PAT has been going down for the last two years, while Nykaa Fashion’s loss for the year has grown consecutively, putting Nykaa business in a fix,” said an analyst from PwC.
Nykaa needs to bring a balance between short-term losses and long-term profits. However, the company’s current strategy fails to show a way out, the analyst added.
The Balancing Act For Nykaa
As per the analyst quoted above, the company’s BPC products have so far had lower prices than Myntra and AJIO, where discounts are typically lower.
However, when compared to Amazon India and its long list of D2C brands and private labels, Nykaa products were slightly more expensive. Amazon also scored over Nykaa with its better supply chain and distribution.
Nykaa banked on product assortment, the assurance of quality and authenticity of products, but as more and more brands join Tira, AJIO and Tata CLiQ, this is also fast eroding.
Access to international brands is no longer exclusive to Nykaa, so it needs to tackle distribution and supply chain, where its rivals score heavily.
Giving Nykaa the benefit of the doubt, a consultant from brokerage firm Motilal Oswal recently said, “There is no clear playbook for these businesses. When Nykaa entered the segment, it was pioneering many aspects in India.”
However, now the company needs to exercise extreme caution regarding expenses and investments because of heavyweight competition with deeper pockets.
P Ganesh, chief financial officer at Nykaa, highlighted that the company still has funds remaining from the IPO, which will be utilised to secure future capital needs.
Ganesh added, “It’s worth noting that while we have observed a considerable increase in working capital as the company scales up, the number of working capital days is expected to stabilise. This means that the amount of funding allocated to working capital should moderate in the future.”
But analysts also believed that Nykaa cannot afford to sacrifice its market share in India’s rapidly growing beauty, personal care, and wellness segment. One thing that is advantageous for Nykaa is that Reliance-owned Tira is still new in the market and will take some time to get to critical mass adoption.
This is a window of opportunity for Nykaa to stretch its lead and fight off its rivals. Nykaa’s brand value primarily comes from its online business, so it must not let offline expenses hinder its online growth plans. However, given the competition, Nykaa is in a Catch-22 situation.
In the BPC segment, owned and private label brands play a vital role in increasing long-term profitability and repeat purchases. All of this will require extensive investment from Nykaa’s leadership — there are segments in BPC where Nykaa has no private label or owned brands.
As of now, the question remains: Can Nykaa maintain its dominance in the online market while facing fierce competition on multiple fronts?
(Published on Inc42)
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)
Shambhavi Anand, Economic Times
New Delhi, May 24, 2023
Retailers and shopkeepers will soon not be allowed to seek phone numbers of their customers while generating bills, according to a diktat by the department of consumer affairs, a senior government official said.
Taking the numbers of customers without their “express consent” is a breach and encroachment of privacy, said the official, without wanting to be identified.
The official added that such a move will be classified as an unfair trading practice defined as any business practice or act that is deceptive, fraudulent, or causes injury to a consumer.
Most large retailers mandatorily take down buyers’ phone numbers while generating the bill for their purchases and use them for loyalty programmes or sending push messages.
The move has come after the department received several complaints from consumers about retailers insisting on getting their phone numbers. This will be communicated to all retailers through industry bodies representing retailers soon, the official added.
While the implementation of these new rules may require some adjustments and initial costs for retailers, it is seen as a necessary step towards protecting consumer privacy and ensuring fair business practices in the retail sector, said experts.
While retailers will have to rework their systems in case this becomes a regulation, this won’t stop them from asking for phone numbers of consumers as their loyalty programmes run on these numbers, said Devangshu Dutta, founder of Third Eyesight, a retail consultancy firm.
He added that retailers also use numbers for sending e-invoices and so this could have a cost impact and environmental impact.
(Published in Economic Times)
Gargi Sarkar, Inc42
6 May 2023
With one of the largest consumer bases in the world, the Indian retail industry is on a constant upward spiral, thanks to the increase in the purchasing power of Indian consumers and the ever-increasing ecommerce adoption.
Notably, this has helped segments like online beauty and personal care (BPC) sustain and grow faster than the players in the offline space.
According to industry experts, the online BPC market has been growing in the range of 20% to 25% annually, compared to the offline segment at around 8% to 10% a year. According to a IMARC Group report, India’s BPC market size reached $26.3 Bn in 2022 and is expected to reach $38 Bn by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 6.45% between 2023 and 2028.
Notably, in their endeavour to capture this opportunity, new players are entering the BPC space, and the existing ones have started to scale their omnichannel presence.
The newest entrant in the space is Reliance Retail. The retail major forayed into the BPC market with its omnichannel platform, Tira, earlier last month. Along with launching its app, Reliance Retail also opened its flagship Tira store in Mumbai.
It is crucial to note that existing marketplaces like Nykaa and Purplle, and D2C brands such as SUGAR Cosmetics and Mamaearth, too, have started expanding their offline footprint, after scaling up their online presence.
Similarly, offline retailers such as Loreal India, Sephora, and Hindustan Unilever’s Lakme have increased their focus on expanding their online presence via direct-to-consumer websites.
Given that Reliance’s Tira has entered the market with an omnichannel playbook, piggybacking on its parent’s cash reserves, it becomes all the more important to understand what impact it will have in the long run on the existing players and industry dynamics.
According to the industry experts that Inc42 spoke with, the beauty and personal care market offers more than enough opportunities for multiple players to grow, due to multiple favourable factors.
“The BPC segment remains one of the fastest growing categories in consumer retail because the penetration of beauty products has remained relatively low. With increasing awareness, and more disposable income, the BPC segment has witnessed decent growth. Now, since the segment is growing, there is a scope for multiple players to grow. That is why some of the big players have entered into the market,” Ashish Dhir, EVP (consumer and retail), 1Lattice said.
Despite Dhir’s optimism, it is pertinent to note that Nykaa saw some initial pressure on its share prices and overall stock performance with the launch of Tira. Brokerage firm Macquarie said that the entry of new players such as Tira could exacerbate the problems for Nykaa at a time when the competition in the segment is already tough.
In the past, Reliance’s entry into the fashion ecommerce space with Ajio impacted leading existing players like Myntra. Now that we already have an example from the past, coupled with a falling will to spend due to factors like rising unemployment and inflation, it will be interesting to see how Nykaa performs under such pressure.
How Tira Could Threaten Nykaa & Ilks Dominance In The Beauty & Personal Care Space
It is no wonder that Reliance Retail will look at disrupting the market to emerge as a market leader as it has done in every segment.
Compared to sectors such as apparel and telecom, the BPC segment is different, and it is not very easy to scale here the way Nykaa has done over the years, according to Karan Taurani, SVP Research, Elara Capital. He noted that many other players in the past tried to scale but failed.
“Nykaa has emerged as a winner due to several factors such as a superior consumer experience on the app, trustworthiness, and product variety. Currently, the product delivery time is also lesser on Nykaa compared to Tira, although the latter could improve it. Moreover, Nykaa has created a network of influencers over the years, and its approach on social media is very different,” Taurani added.
He, however, highlighted that there will be an initial consumer churn as some customers will try Tira as well, and whether the new venture, Tira, can retain all these customers will depend on the consumer experience it provides.
As per Taurani, marketplaces like Nykaa will see some sort of pinch in terms of demand but will not have a significant impact until Tira offers a differentiated experience. Right now, Tira has very few differentiating factors.
However, we should not forget that Reliance Retail is experienced in building brands and has the heavy financial backing to scale in the offline segment.
Given that many players do not have much experience in the offline segment, they may see a visible impact facing the retail giant in the offline BPC space.
It is important to note that Nykaa’s consolidated net profit fell 70.7% year-on-year (YoY) to INR 8.5 Cr in the December quarter of the financial year 2022-23 (FY23), despite the festive season.
In addition, Mumbai-based beauty ecommerce startup Purplle’s net loss almost quadrupled to INR 203.6 Cr in the financial year 2021-22 (FY22) from INR 52 Cr in FY21.
An optimistic Dhir, however, likes to believe that Tira would only increase the competition in the segment and would not impact the profitability of its rivals, at least in the near term.
Will D2C Beauty & Personal Care Brands Face The Heat?
Along with conglomerate-backed large players such as Tata Cliq and online marketplaces, there are several Indian startups and brands such as mCaffeine, Mamaearth, Sugar and Minimalist, which are looking to capture a big chunk of the ever-increasing BPC market pie.
According to an Inc42 report, BPC will remain one of the fastest-growing D2C segments between 2022 and 2030, growing at a CAGR of 27%.
Talking about Tira’s impact, experts said these (aforementioned) D2C brands will not see any major impact due to two factors.
“Firstly, these brands will have similar arrangements with Tira as they have with Nykaa. Secondly, these brands have created a loyal customer base for the products they offer and they have their recall,” Taurani said.
“While deep-pocketed companies can spend their way into buying the market share, all brands need to be prepared for the long term. Also, for these brands a clear positioning be crucial to stand out, not just in their product and service mix but also the overall customer experience specific to their target audience. This would also give opportunities to several beauty and personal care brands to profitably serve niches that may be too small for the larger companies driving for the market, “Devangshu Dutta, the founder of Third Eyesight, said.
Also, Nykaa and Purplle have a portfolio of private labels, which includes skincare brands such as Dot & Key, Earth Rhythm, and Good Vibes, among others. Hence, it will not be surprising if Tira launches its private labels or acquires small brands to grow its portfolio.
As brands like Dot & Key, and Good Vibes are already direct competitors to these D2C beauty brands, a new player can pose more challenges for them.
What Else Could Work In Tira’s Favour
“Our vision for Tira is to be the leading beauty destination for accessible yet aspirational beauty, one that is inclusive and one that harbours the mission of becoming the most loved beauty retailer in India,” Reliance Retail’s executive director Isha Ambani said at the time of launch in April 2023.
When Reliance entered new segments like telecom and fashion ecommerce with Jio and Ajio, respectively, many of the existing players struggled to sustain in the segment as the Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate scaled up quickly, thanks to its strong financial position. Hence, it will work as the biggest favourable factor in the beauty and personal care space as well, industry experts believe.
Tira is also expected to lure customers with big discounts. “For Tira, a big chunk of revenue will initially go towards marketing and customer acquisition, at least for the first couple of years, as it is a new brand. More than marketing, Reliance will look at discounting more prominently. Reliance will try to give higher discounts compared to other players,” Taurani said.
He added that Reliance has some expertise in building new platforms, such as Ajio, and a rich talent pool and strong brand exposure.
While players like Tata Cliq, Purplle, and Myntra’s beauty segment have tried to scale up in BPC, none of these players has seen significant growth. Hence, the market consists of one large player, making it easier for a deep-pocket player like Tira to carve its positioning quickly and create a duopoly with Nykaa.
At the time of Tira’s launch, the company said that the brand would offer a curated assortment of the best global and home-grown beauty brands. In terms of its offline play, Reliance Retail can leverage partnerships with global beauty brands and suppliers to get better deals. As it is looking at an omnichannel play at an entry stage itself, it may be able to gain market share from smaller beauty retailers, especially in bigger cities.
The Tira offline store will have the latest beauty tech tools such as virtual try-on to create customised looks and a skin analyser that will personalise and assist consumers in making purchasing decisions based on their needs, the company said.
On the luxury side, Reliance Retail is also directly targeting the market which has higher margins and could eat into the margins of Nykaa easily. It must be noted that Nykaa’s Luxe is still in its infancy.
While it is true that Tira will increase the competition in the BPC segment, it is not likely to rewrite the industry’s future over the next couple of years. Tira currently has very few differentiating factors in both the online and offline segments. Additionally, in the offline segment, Tira has opened only one store while Nykaa already has 141 physical stores across 56 Indian cities, as shared in its Q3 earnings report.
Even though there are glaring differences, some industry experts see Tira’s journey to be the same as that of Nykaa, going ahead.
(Published in Inc42)
Samar Srivastava, Forbes India
April 24, 2023
A board meeting scheduled for May 2 promises to be the start of the value unlocking process for Reliance Industries [Disclaimer: Reliance Industries is the owner of the Network18 group, which publishes Forbes India]. Shareholders of India’s largest company, which has a presence in industries as diverse as petrochemicals, retail and telecom, will each receive shares in its financial services unit—Jio Financial Services.
User data—what consumers search for, their demographic profile as well as their likes as dislikes—are available to India’s largest telecom company with 426 million users. If it can use that data to underwrite credit for consumers, it has a winner. Jio Financial is in a unique position.
Loans to India’s middle class have grown at three percent in the last year. Compare that with credit to industry that has grown at a mere seven percent and it becomes clear why the company is keen to spin this off an independent entity and list it separately on the bourses. A successful listing could result in telecom and retail being eventually listed separately.
An analysis by Jefferies, a brokerage, shows that loans to India’s consuming class present a large market opportunity. Home loans account for about ₹25,00,000 crore, auto loans for ₹471,400 crore, consumer durable loans for ₹37,000 crore, and microfinance for ₹280,000 crore. And there is the rapidly growing personal loan segment at ₹79,000 crore. These all present a large whitespace for the company to tap into. Jeffries also points out that a key advantage of the business would be their access to low-cost capital due to the high credit rating to Reliance Industries.
The step also marks an important milestone in Chairman Mukesh Ambani’s aim to cement his position in the world’s list of billionaires. At $83.4 billion, Ambani is rank 9 on the 2023 Forbes list of world billionaires. Since the pandemic in March 2020, the second-generation entrepreneur has started work on a new energy business, strengthened his retail operations with the acquisition of Metro Cash and Carry, and broadened Jio’s subscriber base with the launch of 5G services.
As he sets out to independently grow his businesses, Ambani finds himself occupying the largest retailer spot by revenue. In the last year, store count is up 52 percent to 17,225 stores while revenues are up 17 percent to ₹67,000 crore and profit up six percent to ₹2,400 crore.
Reliance Retail has adopted a multi-format approach. There is Ajio.com and JioMart that make up its online offering. Digital plus new commerce accounts for 18 percent of sales, according to CLSA, a brokerage. Reliance Trends is its cut price fashion format. There is the soon-to-be-launched Azorte to compete against the likes of Mango and Zara, as well as Reliance Brands that houses global names like Burberry, Armani Exchange, Canali and Jimmy Choo, among others. Add to that its private label business with brands like Campa Cola and Independence and the growth drivers for the next decade are in place.
“Reliance has been clear about dominating the landscape in any sector it has entered in the last 30 years, whether it is petrochemicals, telecom or retail,” says Devangshu Dutta, founder and CEO of Third Eyesight, a retail consultancy. He believes the company is getting into many sectors or formats to capture a larger share of the consumer wallet.
At Jio, its strategy to add subscribers (mainly from Vodafone Idea), increase average revenue per user as well as spread the 5G network has paid off. At 426 million users, it is now the largest telecom operator in the country with an average revenue per user (ARPU) of ₹177. The business has delivered a topline of ₹29,195 crore and profit after tax of ₹4,881 crore. CLSA expects the launch of its portable 5G device, Jio AirFiber, as well as an affordable 5G smartphone to drive growth.
Add to this the synergies that could play out with Jio Financial Services. The business starts with a net worth of ₹1,07,200 crore, giving its balance sheet the strength to leverage and make loans. Even a conservative gearing of five times net worth would make its loan capacity ₹6,00,000 crore—or twice the size of Bajaj Finance—today.
In the new energy business, the company is working on plans to commence production at its new gigafactory in Jamnagar. The company is yet to share updates on progress on this front.
These developments have prompted upgrades by brokerages who believe Reliance Industries offers a favourable risk reward as the downside is capped on account of strong profit growth. In a recent report, CLSA termed Reliance Industries a ‘bargain buy’. In the last 12 months, sales were up 36 percent to ₹2,17,164 crore, while profits were up 16 percent to ₹70,782 crore. Still, the stock price is down eight percent to ₹2,346 per share, and its market capitalisation stands at ₹15,87,500 crore, making it the most valuable company in India.
They point to key monitorables being the rollout of its green energy ventures as well as the execution in its 5G rollout. For now, the company has a comfortable position with regard to leverage. In the quarter ended September 2022, Reliance Industries had reserves of ₹7,83,283 crore and borrowings of ₹3,16,030 crore, leaving it with scope to borrow if new business opportunities come its way. Ambani usually uses the Reliance AGM to announce new plans. Expect the next meeting in a few months to possibly come up with some.
(With inputs from Varsha Meghani)
(Published in Forbes India)