What Is Behind Reliance Retail’s Expansion Spree

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July 8, 2022

Akash Podishetty & Krishna Veera Vanamali, Business Standard

New Delhi, 8 July 2022

India’s $900 billion retail market has emerged as one of the most dynamic industries and is expected to reach anywhere between $1.3-$1.5 trillion by 2025. The organized retail is seen gaining 15% market share in the overall retail space, while food & grocery and apparel and lifestyle may account for 80% of India’s retail market by 2025.

Large market offers big opportunities. And it looks like Reliance Retail has seized it, with its massive omni-channel retail play of physical stores, B2B with kiranas and e-commerce.

The company went on an acquisition spree and partnerships in the last three years, adding to its portfolio some of the biggest names, including Hamleys, Dunzo, Zivame etc.

It has also partnered with famous global retail chain 7-Eleven. Catering to India’s affluent consumers, Reliance, meanwhile, houses some of the most iconic brands such as Versace, Armani Exchange, GAP, GAS, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors among others. The premium segment has become one of the fastest growing categories.

Also firming up its inorganic play, the company is planning to acquire dozens of niche local consumer brands to build a formidable consumer goods business.

Arvind Singhal, Chairman and Managing Director, Technopak Advisors says, there’s focus on physical retail expansion. Reliance is looking to cater to both price conscious and brand conscious customers, while trying to capture as much of the private consumption market as possible, he says.

Reliance Retail’s competitors are nowhere close to even put up a fight. The company has over 15,000 offline stores across categories, compared with DMart’s 294 stores or Aditya Birla Fashion’s 3,468 outlets.

Reliance retail’s revenue has grown five times in the last five years and the core retail revenue of $18 billion is greater than competitors combined, according to a Bernstein report.

Speaking to Business Standard, Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight, says, Reliance wants a decent share of Indian consumers’ wallet. From that perspective, Reliance still has a long way to go, he says. As consumer preferences evolve, Reliance too should adapt.

An undisputed leader in the domestic market, the aim of Reliance, according to Mukesh Ambani, is to become one of the top 10 retailers globally. Part of this bet is based on the premise that incomes and consumption power of Indians will increase across the board in coming years. However, could the uneven recovery that different segments of the population have seen stop the pie from growing larger and prove to be a dampener for Ambani’s ambitions?

(Published in Business Standard)

With ‘house of brands’ model, ABFRL eyes foray into D2C market

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June 24, 2022

Written By Christina Moniz

Prashanth Aluru, a former Facebook and Bain hand, will be behind the steering wheel for this venture

The Aditya Birla Group has just announced the launch of its ‘house of brands’ business entity, TMRW, to support digital fashion and lifestyle brands. TMRW, which will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail (ABFRL), aims to build and buy over 30 brands in the next three years, the company said in a statement.

With this move, the company expects to make its entry into the D2C market, which is expected to be reach $100 billion by 2025. “What a brand like Shoppers’ Stop does in brick and mortar, ABFRL is doing online. While in the past, the company was known for certain brands, it is now pivoting itself towards a wider pitch with bigger variety of brands that could potentially appeal to a wider range of consumers,” said Ankur Bisen, senior partner and head, food and retail, Technopak Advisors. The launch could be ABFRL’s next step in positioning itself as a fashion major, he said.

Prashanth Aluru, a former Facebook and Bain hand, will be behind the steering wheel for this venture.

ABFRL will compete with start-ups like the Good Glamm Group and Mensa Brands, among others. The number of D2C brands and online sellers in the country have grown over the last couple of years, and experts believe that TMRW could be the company’s endeavour to become relevant to new-age consumers. Brands like Reliance Retail and Myntra are going down the same path, says Bisen.

The opportunity is immense; according to a report by IMARC Group, the Indian textile and apparel segment reached $151.2 billion in 2021 and is set to grow at a CAGR of 14.8% between 2022 and 2027.

ABFRL, which has a network of over 3,300 stores across India, is home to brands like Pantaloons, Van Heusen, Louis Philippe and Allen Solly, and has partnerships with labels like Forever 21, American Eagle and more recently, Reebok. The retail company has also forayed into the ethnic wear business and has forged strategic partnerships with designers such as Sabyasachi, Masaba and Shantanu & Nikhil.

Having reported losses for the last three years, the company narrowed its losses to `108.72 crore in FY22 on the back of revenues of `8,136.22 crore. The company reported a 55% surge in revenues during the last fiscal. While Madura Fashion & Lifestyle contributed 68.4% to the company’s FY22 revenue, the remainder 31.6% came from Pantaloons, according to Bloomberg data.

Ambi Parameswaran, author and founder of Brand-Building.com, said ABFRL has already built a good retail presence for the brands in its portfolio. “There must be significant synergies at the back end, but the brands are managed separately,” he said. “I suppose the new venture, TMRW, will offer all these brands as well as all the other ethnic brands that ABFRL has acquired in the last three years.”

He said the synergies will probably lie at the back end with supply chain, logistics, finance and HR. However, the brands will most likely be given the space to build strong individual identities.

This is not the company’s first foray into the e-commerce space. ABFRL shut down its e-commerce venture, ABOF (All About Fashion) in 2017, though in August last year, it said the brand would be made available on Flipkart and Myntra.

A concept like ‘house of brands’ is potentially beneficial to both — the large conglomerates and also to the smaller, emerging brands that are acquired. In a D2C framework, niche brands that would otherwise find it difficult to navigate the established multi-layered distribution and retail channels see greater feasibility in connecting with their customers directly through digital channels.

According to Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail consultancy Third Eyesight, this makes it viable to launch a product range, which would not be immediately entertained in established channels, and allows them to retain their distinctiveness. With the passage of time and with their growth, some of these brands could also expand into established modern retail and traditional retail formats and to a more mainstream audience.

“Large companies, on the other hand, can find it difficult to grow their existing brands beyond a certain pace, and often may not be able to break new ground in terms of product development and customer experience. At some point, inorganic growth by acquiring other businesses and brands becomes an important element of their strategy,” Dutta said.

The house of brands model, to be sure, comes with its fair share of challenges. Angshuman Bhattacharya, EY India partner and national leader – consumer products and retail, said the strategy must have clear synergies from an operations and distribution perspective. “Possible challenges could emanate out of the non-compatibility of categories with the distribution. Another potential challenge could be in supporting multiple brands with marketing investments, failing which the realisable value envisaged during acquisition could stay unfulfilled,” Bhattacharya said.

The other downside, as Dutta pointed out, is that over time there is consolidation of market power within a handful of companies. This has happened across the globe and across sectors, and can negatively impact consumer choice, supplier dynamics and pricing.

Source: financialexpress

Aditya Birla Group Bets Big On Ethnic Wear

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April 21, 2021

Debojyoti Ghosh, Fortune India

April 21, 2021

Billionaire entrepreneur Kumar Mangalam Birla-led retailer Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL) has continued its build-up in the ethnic wear market with its fourth deal since 2019 and second this year. In February, the Mumbai-based fashion retailer picked up a 33.5% stake in fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani’s Goodview Properties—that will own and operate the designer’s eponymous couture label—for ₹67 crore. That was a month after ABFRL acquired a 51% stake in Kolkata-based designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s company, Sabyasachi Couture, which sells garments, accessories, and fine jewellery, for ₹398 crore.

ABFRL, which owns fashion brands such as Louis Philippe and Van Heusen, said in a statement that ethnic wear “is a large and growing market with a significant opportunity to build scale” and expects it to be an important category over the next few years.

Experts note the two recent deals come as the luxury industry, including fashion, has been hammered by the pandemic. The year-long shutdown in global travel has slowed over a decade of growth across luxury categories. Indeed, the global fashion industry’s profit is expected to have slumped about 93% in 2020, according to a report by consulting firm McKinsey and The Business of Fashion in December.

“[Luxury] business has been hit hard during the pandemic, like all fashion and retail businesses. And a significant injection of money is needed to maintain the business momentum, and to scale it further,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.

In March, Italy’s billionaire Agnelli family—best known as the founders of automaker Fiat—acquired a 24% stake in French luxury shoemaker Christian Louboutin for $642 million. Three months before that it paid $95 million for a controlling stake in Shang Xia Paris, a Chinese luxury goods business founded by French luxury brand Hermès and Chinese designer Jiang Qiong Er.

Many fashion firms have used the Covid-19-induced slowdown to reshape business models, streamline operations, and sharpen their customer propositions, said the report by McKinsey and The Business of Fashion.

And that is exactly what Tahiliani plans to do with his new corporate partner. The duo will create a new entity—80% held by ABFRL and 20% by Tahiliani—to launch a new brand of apparel and accessories in the affordable premium ethnic wear segment, while it also plans to launch a men’s ethnic wear brand.

“Discussions with ABFRL have been in the works for nearly two years. I couldn’t be happier about entering into this partnership. They understand scale and numbers like no one else in the market today. Each of their home-grown brands is a resounding success,” Tahiliani, founder and CEO of Tarun Tahiliani Brand, tells Fortune India. “This collaboration permits me the financial freedom to focus on designing,” he adds.

ABFRL aims to build the new ethnic wear brand into a ₹500-crore business in the next five years, with more than 250 stores across India. The first tranche of stores is expected to open by September. “This new entity with ABFRL currently concentrates only on menswear. In our collective opinion, at present, there is only one branded national player in the Indian ethnic [wear] for men space. In order to scale this up, we need to be in three or four categories of clothing. This will give depth, both in terms of style and sizing to the men who come into the store,” says Tahiliani.

Currently, the top panIndia ethnic wear brand for men is Vedant Fashions’ Manyavar. The Kolkata-based company forayed into women’s wear in 2016 selling lehengas, saris, and the like under the label Mohey,

ABFRL’s previous deals in the segment—both in 2019—were a 51% stake in fashion designers Shantanu & Nikhil’s Finesse International Design for a reported ₹60 crore, and its ₹110-crore acquisition of Jaypore. Both make apparel, footwear, accessories, and other items.

ABFRL’s managing director, Ashish Dikshit, declined to comment for this story. ABFRL had, when announcing the Sabyasachi Couture investment, said it expected that deal to accelerate its strategy to build a comprehensive portfolio of brands across segments, occasions, and geographies.

Experts say ABFRL’s recent investments allow it to tap into the designer’s creative stream and goodwill, while providing the financial and organisational muscle of a large corporate. Albeit one that is not aiming too far upmarket.

“We shouldn’t see the ABFRL [stake] acquisitions as entry into couture, which is a different business from the ready-to-wear market. It is the expansion of these brands into ready-to-wear, tapping into the desirability of the designer brand, while making it accessible and affordable to a larger market is what will be of interest,” says Third Eyesight’s Dutta.

Indeed, Mukherjee, in a press release in late January, noted, “As my brand evolved and matured, I began searching for the right partner in order to ensure continuity and long-term sustainable growth.”

Nonita Kalra, a veteran fashion editor, says that the ABFRL deal shows the growing heft of the [Sabyasachi] brand in the fashion business. “Corporates aren’t sentimental. They are hard-nosed about investments, with careful due-diligence. ABFRL is paying what it is worth and expecting it to grow bigger. They are never going to invest in a stagnant business,” she says.

Experts, though, caution that while corporate partnerships and acquisitions allow a designer-entrepreneur and their investor partners to unlock some of the value being built, it is essential to have clarity about each brand’s design language and target consumer. “With [ABFRL’s] new venture [in men’s ethnic wear with Tahiliani], the key thing to understand is how the company will differentiate it from Shantanu & Nikhil’s positioning and focus, which is also menswear-driven,” says Abneesh Roy, executive vice president, Edelweiss Securities. “The challenge will be ensuring that each brand maintains its distinctive identity, while deriving synergies from the group.”

ABFRL has stitched up some unique deals; it now has to ensure they don’t unravel.

(The story originally appeared in Fortune India‘s April 2021 issue).