Qatar Investment Authority invests $1 billion in Reliance Retail – CNBC segment


August 24, 2023

On CNBC-TV18 | Reliance Retail has established a dominant position and the growth trajectory remains robust – Devangshu Dutta of Third Eyesight tells Prashant Nair, Nigel D’Souza and Sonia Shenoy.

Almost 20 foreign brands set to enter India


August 18, 2023

Viveat Susan Pinto, Financial Express

August 18, 2023

Retail activity in the country is set to increase with some 20 foreign brands likely to enter India in the next 6-8 months, according to retail consultants and experts. This is double the number of about 10 foreign brands that would enter India annually in the pre-pandemic period.

An attractive retail market and growing affluence and consumer tastes are among the key reasons for the interest shown by foreign brands in India, said experts. Also, large groups such as Reliance and Aditya Birla are open to partnerships with foreign brands, with Reliance Brands, part of Reliance Retail, in particular, being the most aggressive of the lot.

“Global markets are witnessing slowdown and recessionary concerns, which is hurting retail sentiment. In contrast, retail sentiment in India is upbeat despite food inflationary pressures. Spending across non-essential categories will also grow as the festive season nears,” said Abhinav Joshi, head of research, India, Middle East & North Africa at consultancy CBRE.

The consultancy on Thursday released a report which said that retail leasing activity in India had grown 24% year-on-year in the first half of CY2023, led by foreign and domestic brands. The second half of the year was also expected to see a strong double-digit rate of growth in terms of leasing activity, with overall retail leasing likely to touch 5.5-6 million sq. ft. at the end of the CY2023, second only to the peak of 6.8 million sq. ft. seen in CY2019.    

Of the names eyeing an India-entry in the next few quarters include labels such as Italian luxury fashion brand Roberto Cavalli, American sportswear and footwear brand Foot Locker, Armani Caffe, the luxury cafe brand of Armani, British luxury brand Dunhill, Dubai’s Brands for Less, Old Navy and Banana Republic from Gap, Chinese brand Shein, Maison De Couture from Valentino, Spanish luxury brand Balenciaga, EL&N, a UK-based boutique cafe, Galleries Lafayette from Paris, Kiabi, Mavi, Damat, Dufy, Tudba Deri, Avva, Boohooman and Miss Poem, all apparel brands from Turkey and Europe, say industry sources.

Barring Galleries Lafayette which has tied up with Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail for its India entry, most other names are either talking to Reliance Brands (part of Reliance Retail) or have tied up with the company, persons in the know said. For instance, Balenciaga, EL&N, Shein, Gap’s Old Navy and Banana Republic, Armani Caffe, Maison de Couture from Valentino have tied up with Reliance Brands for their India entry. Executives at Reliance Brands were not immediately available for comment.

Most of these brands are eyeing a presence in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru and Hyderabad in the first phase of launch, before expanding their presence to other cities such as Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Kolkata.

“The India retail opportunity is a compelling one, which most foreign retailers don’t want to miss,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer at Gurugram-based consultancy Third Eyesight.

“Some of the brands who’ve come earlier have also tasted success especially in the fast fashion category. This is an indication that brand awareness is growing and that people are ready to spend on global products as discretionary incomes grow,” he says.

On Wednesday, Japanese fast fashion retailer Uniqlo said that it was setting up two new stores in Mumbai in October, after launching 10 stores in the north over the last four years. The company’s chief executive officer Tomohiko Sei indicated that the retailer was open to new markets and store openings, but would focus on Mumbai for now.

CBRE says that Mumbai has seen retail leasing grow by 14.6% year-on-year in the first half of CY2023 on the back of a push by foreign brands to acquire space in the city. Delhi-NCR, meanwhile, reported a higher 65% year-on-year growth in retail leasing in the first half of the year, led by retail activity by both foreign and domestic brands.

(Published in Financial Express)

Reliance seeks retail dominance in India with comeback deal for Shein


May 26, 2023

Chloe Cornish in Mumbai and Eleanor Olcott in Hong Kong, Financial Times

May 26 2023

India’s biggest company Reliance Industries is seeking to dominate the country’s $10bn online domestic fashion market, striking a deal with Shein that will allow the rapidly growing Chinese retailer to return to the world’s most populous nation.

The retail unit of billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s petrol-to-telecoms conglomerate will tie up with Shein three years after India banned the online retailer’s app in its attempt to freeze Chinese companies out of the local market in retaliation for border clashes that had left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.

“We can confirm Shein’s partnership with Reliance Retail and have no additional comment at this time,” said Shein, declining to answer questions about the structure of the deal. Reliance did not respond to queries about the partnership, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The addition of a low-priced offering gives India’s biggest listed company by market capitalisation an important boost in its battle to dominate the country’s growing online fashion retail market, which was worth $10bn in 2022, according to analyst estimates.

As part of the licence agreement, which was recently approved by the government, Shein will receive a percentage of profits generated from its fast fashion sales in India, people familiar with the deal said, while Reliance will help Shein build a supply chain with India’s garment industry for global exports.

The move into Indian sourcing comes as Shein diversifies its supply chain outside the coastal province of Guangdong in southern China, where it has 8,000 suppliers, mostly located in the garment hub of Panyu. Pandemic-era supply chain bottlenecks, rising labour costs in China and geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington have propelled multinational companies, including Apple and clothing retailer Mango, to migrate parts of their supply chains out of the country.

Shein, which does not sell in China, has been seeking to distance itself from its home country. Last year, it made its Singapore arm the de facto holding company, rapidly expanding its workforce there and shifting some of its operations from its China headquarters in Nanjing.

Shein will seek to minimise delivery times by having more manufacturing centres around the world. India, meanwhile, hopes to benefit from multinationals’ “China plus one” movement, a strategy that seeks to avoid investing only in China and aims to diversify supply chains to other countries.

Reliance has signed agreements with international luxury brands ranging from Balenciaga to Burberry, catering to India’s small but growing demographic of super-rich consumers. In addition, it has nearly 13,000 bricks-and-mortar stores across the country selling affordable apparel.

“Reliance’s other international brand partnerships are more premium, being luxury or designer brands,” said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of consultant Third Eyesight. “India is still a relatively low per capita income economy. The bigger opportunity is in brands which are euphemistically called value brands, and that’s where Shein is positioned.”

For Shein, access to the Indian market will allow the company to boost sales as the pace of its expansion in Europe and the US begins to lose steam, according to people briefed on its growth figures.

The Financial Times reported that in a recent presentation to investors, Shein forecast that gross merchandise value — the total value of merchandise sold on its platform — will almost triple by 2025 to $80.6bn compared with the figure last year.

The lofty revenue projections come ahead of a much anticipated initial public offering, which promises to be one of the largest listings of a Chinese-founded company in years.

In fashion ecommerce, Reliance lags behind Myntra, one of India’s oldest ecommerce players, which merged with Walmart-backed Flipkart in 2014. Myntra accounts for around half of the online fashion market in India, according to Satish Meena, an independent ecommerce analyst based in Gurgaon.

“Myntra is the nucleus” for online fashion, said Ankur Bisen, senior partner at retail consultancy Technopak Advisors, adding that its “cohort” of shoppers is primarily young and urban. “With the Reliance and Shein partnership, they would like to get into this cohort and break the monopoly of Myntra,” Bisen said.

Meena estimates that Reliance’s ecommerce fashion business Ajio has about 4 per cent of market share, while Bisen put Ajio among the “long tail” of ecommerce fashion ventures behind Myntra. Reliance’s JioMart online shop also sells clothes, alongside groceries and electronics.

“If you look at Reliance as a company, it’s about dominance and it’s about long term,” Dutta said.

(Published in the Financial Times)

Metro AG global CEO Steffen Greubel hints at exiting India


December 20, 2022

Metro AG global chief executive officer Steffen Greubel said the company is at a “very advanced” level of discussions on its India business, suggesting for the first time that it could be looking at an exit from the country soon.

“We are very advanced in the process regarding India and are at a certain maturity level in the process. It’s too early to share any information, but we have discussed it greatly,” Greubel told analysts when asked if he is looking at a possible withdrawal from India and the status of talks. “We are very deep in the (sale) process in India,” he said last week while announcing annual earnings.

The German wholesaler grew its Indian business by 21% to $982 million during the year ended September, as per its latest annual report.

Last month, ET reported that Reliance had agreed in principle to buy Metro AG’s cash-and-carry wholesale India business for ₹4,000-4,500 crore.

Its unit Reliance Retail is already the biggest grocery retailer in the country with over 2,400 stores across formats while Metro operates 31 wholesale stores in India with seven of them on company owned land in prime locations. The company hasn’t publicly stated that it’s looking to leave India. Metro would be the second big international wholesaler retailer to exit India, if this happens. French retailer Carrefour wound up its India business in 2014 after struggling with sales for four years.

Globally, Metro is the world’s fourth-largest retailer by revenue. In India, it doesn’t sell directly to consumers and is an organised wholesaler or cash-and-carry operator that sells merchandise to local kirana stores, hotels and catering firms.

It decided to put the India business on the block as part of a global decision to exit the country due to heightened competition, a tougher regulatory environment and the lack of a level playing field between local and foreign retail companies, industry executives said.

Experts said the difficult European and global economic environment, regulatory restrictions in India, tough competition from domestic Indian groups and thin margins in the B2B business in India may have led Metro to focus on growing its core markets in Europe.

“Though India is, indeed, a long-term strategic market for companies looking at global growth, whether retail or B2B, not every business model from other geographies can be successfully transplanted or rapidly scaled in India, and Metro’s business footprint in India may be far smaller than they may have expected in the two decades of presence here,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. The choice to be present in different countries is always a dynamic one for global retailers and entry or withdrawal is driven by individual strategies, rather than solely on the merit of the market itself, he said.

“In September, the management board reported on the current status of the audit of strategic options for Metro India,” according to the annual report.

Overseas investment in offline trade has been a tricky issue, despite India allowing 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in wholesale trade on a cash-and-carry basis. Metro was one of the first companies to enter the segment in India in 2003. Lobby groups representing small Indian retailers have accused overseas retailers of violating FDI rules, which the foreign companies have consistently denied. Some trade lobbies have complained to the government that a few global wholesalers have been flouting FDI rules by selling to consumers directly, which is not allowed as per current regulations.

(Published in The Economic Times)

Pret A Manger-Reliance tie-up to force Indian café chains to smell the coffee


July 27, 2022

Written ByAlakananda Chakraborty

Brand’s positioning may be just below Starbucks

It is against this background that Reliance Brands (RBL) announced its strategic partnership with global fresh food and organic coffee chain, Pret A Manger (PAM).

By Alokananda Chakraborty

India may boast of the presence of several marquee international coffee chains, but none of them, with the possible exception of Starbucks, have been able to make much of an impact. The reasons are obvious; for one, India is largely a tea-drinking market, with coffee penetration still at just about 11%. Coffee remains largely an in-home consumption drink. Then there are the usual challenges of getting prime real estate at a reasonable cost and consumers’ capacity to pay. The pandemic, which disrupted food supply chains and the overall demand, delivered a body blow, leading to shutdown of around 8% of the outlets during 2021.

It is against this background that Reliance Brands (RBL) announced its strategic partnership with global fresh food and organic coffee chain, Pret A Manger (PAM). The first store will open by the end of this financial year. While RBL is tight-lipped about the pricing or positioning strategy, experts say PAM’s biggest advantage is its association with Reliance.

“PAM is a late entrant and would have been at a huge disadvantage if it went alone,” says Anthony Dsouza, executive director & country service line leader, innovation, Ipsos India.

So what does Reliance brings to the table? “Significant investment capability, real estate strength and know-how of retail. These could lead to a much higher scalability and access to the right locations,” says Angshuman Bhattacharya, national leader, consumer product and retail sector, EY India. “However, running a café chain also involves building out the right supply chains across the country, which the brand would need to build,” he adds.

Bhattacharya is bang on. The success of an F&B franchise business depends on getting real estate at the right price. Reliance can offer a tremendous advantage here to PAM. Not only does it run a very large retail business, it also owns malls.

Experts say a lot would also depend on the right pricing. Pramod Damodaran, who had relaunched Costa Coffee India in his earlier stint as COO for that firm, and is now CEO of Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge, says, “There’s a big space between the 240 and170 for a cup of cappuccino, that is, just below the Starbucks/Costa Coffees of the world.”

PAM will probably occupy that window – it is unlikely to be a premium offering for two reasons. One, PAM is primarily a sandwich chain in the UK and it’s not clear how much premium it can command for a pre-made sandwich. Two, if PAM were to take advantage of the retail footprint of Reliance and were to follow a shop-in-shop format, say, in a Reliance Trends store, it can’t afford to be premium. The positioning would be a consequence of that captive audience.

In other words, the store location will, to a large extent, determine both the pricing and positioning of PAM. Agrees Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a specialist management consulting firm: “At the end of the day, PAM is more a quick service outlet than a cafe. (Pret A Manger means “ready to eat” in French). And the consistency of its offering comes from what is called the pre-prep.”

All PAM outlets in the UK follow the concept of “freshness of ingredients” and “quickness of service”. The hero product – the sandwich in this case – is still a convenience food, a grab-and-go item. It is prepared by a central commissary or multiple commissaries and is at the most heated or packaged at the counter. “So it is not a restaurant and it can’t charge a restaurant price,” says Dutta.

In a sense, Domino’s has perfected this model with a lot of pre-prep done at the commissary end but the actual pizza is prepared “at location” or in the store. “In this case (PAM), you are not doing that volume of work at the consumer-facing counter,” Dutta adds. And if that is the model RBL plans to replicate in the country, the positioning, by default, is mass.

“The PAM-Reliance combination is likely to be a mass market offer, with value pricing and highly localised strategy,” Dsouza of Ipsos says.

But mass or premium positioning, PAM’s entry will no doubt roil the waters. “Incumbents have to up the food game if they want to take on the might of Reliance,” says an executive with a rival brand. Beverages form a dominant part of the café industry sales. Besides food and beverages, merchandising, which is employed largely for branding, is rapidly becoming a source of additional revenue. About 60-65% of café sales come from beverages, followed by food which forms about 20-25% and about 10% from merchandise.

For one, Tata Starbucks, which witnessed a 76% growth and logged `636 crore revenue in FY22, has been working at its food menu and delivery for some time. In a recent interview to FE BrandWagon, Sushant Dash, CEO, Tata Starbucks, had said that the brand had to “re-prioritise” because of the pandemic, with innovation becoming more important to keep the brand relevant. Starbucks innovated with the menu to keep the interest level up among customers and introduced new food items and gave the existing food items an Indian twist,” he had said.

Earlier this month, Starbucks added masala chai, filter coffee and an array of bite-sized snacks and sandwiches to its menu card. Its new milkshakes will be priced starting at 275, while masala chai and filter coffee will start from190. It also introduced the ‘Picco’ – meaning ‘small’ in Italian – starting at `185.

Will that be enough? Given PAM’s strong presence in the food space, there is no denying that existing café chains in India have to tweak their food menu considerably. In other words, they will have to get out of their comfort zones.

Source: financialexpress