Reliance Industries in talks to bring British fashion retailer Primark to India

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February 29, 2024

Sagar Malviya & Faizan Haidar, Economic Times

New Delhi, 28 February 2024

Reliance is in exploratory talks with British fashion retailer Primark to bring the label to India, a move that will pit it against Tata’s Zudio, Landmark Group-owned Max and Shoppers Stop’s new value format InTune.

The 55-year-old brand, popular for its moderately priced clothing and shoes, has been evaluating the Indian market for the past few years and may partner Reliance through the joint venture or licensing route, said two people aware of the development.

Most of their stores will be on the high street due to its big box format, unlike other global retailers, which prioritise malls, the executives added.

Primark has been a successful value-priced retailer and its global revenue has exploded in the last few years, aside from two Covid-hit years. Average prices are even cheaper than retailers such as H&M and Uniqlo. While China is the largest source country for Primark, India is second in the number of small to large factories that supply the company. Nearshoring is already embedded in Primark’s supply chain strategy, and it can deliver goods from Indian suppliers directly to a local retail unit for cost control and flexibility while being responsive to local market needs.

As the largest retailer in India and with its portfolio of multiple international brand partnerships, Reliance can provide a significant edge with real estate and operational synergies, said Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight.

“India is an obvious growth market choice for large brands and retailers such as Primark,” he said. “In the end, though, it will come down to how effective the merchandise and the marketing is in connecting with the diverse needs of Indian consumers across the country.”

Primark is owned by London-listed Associated British Foods and has over 400 stores globally with a stated ambition to expand across new and existing markets to reach 530 outlets by the end of 2026. In the lower-priced segment, Reliance has Trends and recently launched fashion and lifestyle store Yousta, which competes directly with fast-fashion brands Zara and H&M in India. Reliance currently has over 18,774 stores-these include supermarkets as well as electronics, jewellery and apparel outlets. It has also either partnered with or acquired over 80 global brands for local sales.

Reliance didn’t respond to queries. A Primark spokesperson said, “As a growing international business, we’re always open to new opportunities. However, we don’t comment on speculation about where we might expand to next.”

Experts said India’s consumption structure has been skewed in the past over a narrow base of richer consumers accounting for a large chunk of market. However, now the opportunity for value-brands is expanding.

(Published in Economic Times)

Realty race in Maximum City as Tata Group, Reliance Industries keep on shopping

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February 23, 2024

Kailash Babar & Sagar Malviya, Economic Times

Mumbai, 23 February 2024

Tata Group and Reliance Industries, two of India’s largest conglomerates, are vying for premium retail real estate in Mumbai as they extend their footprints, creating rivalry in a city starved of marquee properties. From Zara and Starbucks to Westside and Titan, the Tata Group occupies nearly 25 million square feet of retail space in India. That is still no match for Reliance Industries that control three times more at 73 million sq ft for more than 100 local and global brands.

But in Mumbai, they are evenly matched, having nearly 3 million sq ft of retail space each. That is a quarter of what is considered the most prime retail real estate in the country, and both the retail giants are looking for more.

“In a modern retail environment, most visible locations contain more successful or larger brands. It just so happens that many of those brands are owned by either Reliance or the Tatas,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of Third Eyesight, a strategy consulting firm.

“Tatas have been in retail for longer but also slower to scale up compared to Reliance which had this stated ambition of being the most dominant and put the money behind it,” he said.

In a market where demand is much higher than supply, developers and landlords seek to separate the wheat from the chaff, experts said. Ultimately, success in Mumbai’s retail real estate scene hinges on a delicate equilibrium between accommodating industry leaders and fostering a vibrant, varied shopping environment, they said. “In the competitive landscape of retail real estate in Mumbai, commercial developers and mall owners often face the strategic challenge of accommodating prominent retail brands,” said Abhishek Sharma, director, retail, at commercial real estate consultants Knight Frank India.

“These big brands, with a significant market share of 40-45% in the Indian retail sector, can easily be termed as industry giants and possess the potential to command 45-50% of space in any mall,” he said. According to Sharma, there may be perceptions of preferential treatments, but the dynamics are complex, and developers must balance the demand from these major brands with the need for a diverse tenant mix.

Tata Group entered retail in the late 1980s, initially by opening Titan watch stores and a decade later by launching department store Westside. So far, it has about 4,600 stores, including brands such as Tanishq, Starbucks, Westside, Zudio, Zara and Croma.

While Reliance Retail started in 2006, it overcompensated for its late entry by aggressively opening stores across formats. Reliance has over 18,774 stores across supermarkets, electronics, jewellery, and apparel space. It has also either partnered or acquired over 80 global brands, from Gap and Superdry to Balenciaga and Jimmy Choo. A diverse portfolio of brands across various segments through strategic partnerships and collaborations helps an entity like Reliance to leverage synergies and enhance retail presence, especially in malls, experts said.

“The array of brands with Reliance bouquet allows it to enter early into the project and set the tone and positioning of the mall,” said a retail leasing expert who requested not to be identified.

“This positively helps the mall to set its own positioning and future tenant mix. It also helps Reliance place their brands in most relevant zones within the mall. This will emerge as a clear differentiator in a city like Mumbai where brands are already jostling for space, which is the costliest in the country,” the person added.

(Published in Economic Times)

Zara’s revenues jump even without adding new stores

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June 29, 2023

Raghavendra Kamath, Financial Express

June 29, 2023

Zara, touted as “Fast Fashion Queen”, has achieved a unique feat in India. The Spanish brand has been growing its revenues without opening any new stores.

The fashion brand, run by a joint venture between Tata-owned Trent and Spain’s retail group Inditex, posted a 40.7% growth in its revenues to Rs 2553.8 crore in FY23. The catch is that while many retailers/brands garner sales from opening new stores, Zara did not open any store but closed one during FY23.

In FY21 and FY22, its store count remained constant at 21 but its revenue grew 61.2% in FY22. Zara’s revenues grew at a 15.5 % CAGR in the last five years.

“Zara did not foray into any new city and closed one store. That said, it saw an exceptional performance on store productivity (83% higher than FY19). The increase in revenues lead to highest ever Ebitda margins at 16.3%,” said Nuvama Institutional Equities in a recent report.

The contribution in productivity includes contribution from online and also increase in store sizes, the brokerage said.

A mail sent to Inditex did not elicit any response. Trent executives could not be contacted.

Experts attribute Zara’s success to increase in customer spends and improved offerings by the brand.

“The customer base they are targeting has grown and their merchandise mix has become sharper,” said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer at Third Eyesight, a retail consultant.

Dutta said when a retailer opens stores, it would immediately boost sales, but to maintain sales momentum, one has to have “right merchandise at right price and have stores at right locations”.

Zara is known to churn its designs and styles very fast, and target young customers. In its Indian venture also, its parent Inditex controls merchandise mix and so on.

“The said entities (Zara and Massimo Dutti) are obliged to source merchandise only from the Inditex Group. Also, the choice of product & related specifications are at the latter’s discretion. Further, the entities are dependent on Inditex for permissions to use the said brands in India subject to its terms & specifications,” Trent said in its FY23 annual report.

Zara is also focusing on opening in select locations, a reason it could not open more stores in the country, experts said.

“The incremental store openings for Zara continue to be calibrated with focus on presence only in very high-quality retail spaces,” Trent said.

Susil Dungarwal, founder at Beyond Squarefeet, a mall management firm, said that propensity to spend has gone up among Indian shoppers after the pandemic and Zara being a renowned global brand with its stylish merchandise seems to be have been the beneficiary of the trend.

“They understand customers very well and brought products which are liked by Indian shoppers in terms of looks, styles and so on,” Dungarwal said.

Zara is a case study for Indian brands as to how to run a retail business successfully, he said.

(Published in Financial Express)

Game of chicken: Jubilant FoodWorks launches US chicken brand Popeyes in India

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January 24, 2022

Written By Devika Singh

The entry of Jubilant FoodWorks will intensify competition in the fried chicken segment, where KFC so far has maintained its stronghold.

Popeyes, founded in 1972 in New Orleans, Louisiana, has over 3,400 restaurants in over 25 countries around the world. Popeyes (Wikimedia Commons)

Jubilant FoodWorks, the franchisee for Domino’s Pizza, will launch the iconic US-based fried chicken brand Popeyes, known for spicy New Orleans-style fried chicken and chicken sandwiches, in India on January 19 with the unveiling of the first outlet in Bengaluru.

“Popeyes was founded in 1972 and has been one of America’s most popular and fastest-growing chicken brands. Popeyes aims to delight Indian guests with the bold and delicious flavours of its Louisiana-style chicken,” the company said in a filing to stock exchanges.

“The success of the brand lies in its traditional and unique technique of hand breading, battering, and marinating its fresh chicken for 12 hours in bold Cajun seasonings,” the company added.

Popeyes runs over 3,400 restaurants in 25 countries.

With the entry of Jubilant FoodWorks, the competition is set to intensify in the fried chicken segment, where KFC has maintained leadership in the country so far.

“KFC has enjoyed a free run in the fried chicken market. There are some local players in this segment but no large QSR (quick service restaurant) player had a presence in it until now. With Popeyes as a competitor, now Jubilant FoodWorks is stepping into that opportunity,” said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive at consulting firm Third Eyesight.

While launching its initial public offering (IPO) last year, Devyani International, the largest franchisee of Yum! Brands (which owns KFC), had stressed the advantage it has over other QSRs in the country.

“We have no competition for KFC in India,” Ravi Kant Jaipuria, chairman, Devyani International, had said at the time. Devyani International runs 284 KFC India stores across 107 cities and the brand contributes more than half of its revenues. Sapphire Foods, which too launched its IPO last year, is another major franchise for KFC in India.

Both the companies already compete with Jubilant FoodWorks in the pizza segment as they also operate Yum! Brands-owned Pizza Hut in India. Jubilant FoodWorks with Domino’s Pizza, however, has clear leadership in the pizza market. Sample this: Pizza Hut currently has 500 stores in India, of which 317 are run by Devyani International; Jubilant FoodWorks, on the other hand, already has 1,335 outlets of Domino’s Pizza in India.

Now with the launch of Popeyes, Jubilant FoodWorks, it seems, wants a chunk of the fried chicken pie too.

Westlife Development, which holds the master franchise for McDonald’s in southern and western India, also has set its sight on the fried chicken segment in India. In an interview with Moneycontrol in September last year, Smita Jatia, managing director of Westlife Development, shared an ambitious plan to become a market leader in the segment. The company has already introduced fried chicken in its 125 stores in South India and plans to soon launch the food item in the western region too.

Clearly, the fried chicken market is certainly headed for interesting times as several new QSR players vie for a share of it. According to experts, the segment also offers the next avenue for growth for QSR players. “While fried chicken was the first to take off in Southeast Asia, in India, pizza and burgers found takers given the preference towards wheat-based cuisine in some parts of the country,” said Rajat Tuli, partner at global management consulting firm Kearney.

“However, as Indians become more experimental with food and trying out different cuisines, the fried chicken segment offers the next arena for growth to QSR companies,” he added.

Tuli also believes that the segment has enough space for a couple of players. “The QSR space is poised for over 20 percent growth in the next five-six years and hence there is enough headroom for multiple players to grow in it,” he said.

‘Veg options and no MSG’

The Popeyes India menu will feature the signature Cajun-flavoured Chicken Sandwich and Popeyes signature Chicken in Classic and Spicy flavours. The Indian menu will also feature an array of vegetarian options and will also have rice bowls and wraps. The entire India menu has no flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), and the chicken is antibiotic-free, said Jubilant FoodWorks.

In a statement, Shyam S. Bhartia, chairman, and Hari S. Bhartia, co-chairman, Jubilant FoodWorks, said, “We are excited to introduce the Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen brand to chicken-loving Indian consumers. We are confident that Popeyes will not only delight guests but also strategically complement our portfolio and fortify JFL’s leadership in the QSR domain.”

Popeyes will start with its flagship store in Bengaluru’s Koramangala on January 19, followed by stores in New BEL Road and Kammanahalli soon thereafter. The brand will have its own app (Android and iOS) and mobile website.

To ensure a smooth and seamless delivery experience, Jubilant FoodWorks has built its in-house delivery fleet with e-bikes to enable zero-emission delivery. The company is also taking precautions given the pandemic situation.

“Safety protocols like daily temperature screening for all employees and frequent sanitisation of the restaurant are being implemented and frequent sanitisation of bikes will be conducted. All delivery riders will be compulsorily wearing face masks and gloves while following the frequent hand sanitisation protocol,” it added.

Source: moneycontrol

Tesco in India: Will every little help?

Devangshu Dutta

January 24, 2014

[This article appeared in the February 2014 print issue of Retailer, under the headline “Implications of the Tata-Tesco JV“]

India is a civilisation that has borne fruit from thousands of year of international cultural exchange, commerce and investment flowing both inwards and out. It is also one that has suffered from military and as well as economic colonisation over the millennia.

For those reasons, foreign investment into the country is bound to have both vociferous opponents as well as staunch supporters, and this debate is possibly most polarised in the retail sector that touches every Indian’s life daily. Over the last few decades, foreign investment into the retail sector has seen flip-flops from successive governments and political parties across the spectrum, being allowed until the late 1990s, then blocked (by Congress-led UPA), then selectively allowed (by BJP-led NDA, and later by Congress-led UPA). And more recently, with pressures, protests and influences from all sides 2011, 2012 and 2013 have certainly been on/off years during the UPA’s second successive term.

In this time Zara’s joint-venture, set up in 2010, has turned out be one of the most successful and profitable in India. More recently, Ikea announced a €1.5 billion plan for the country, followed by H&M’s US$ 115 million proposal, while Marks & Spencer identified India as its second largest potential market outside the UK. However in October 2013, the world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart decided to call off its joint venture amid investigations of its executives having supported or indulged in corruption and accusations that it had violated foreign investment norms. It decided to acquire Bharti’s stake in the cash-and-carry JV and announced that it would not invest in Bharti’s retail business.

It was soon after, as if to compensate for Wal-Mart’s blow, that India’s Tata Group and British retailer Tesco announced that they would be creating a formal joint venture in India, with Tesco investing US$ 110 million. The Congress-led government went on to quickly approve the proposal, as if to visibly shake off accusations of “policy paralysis”.

Tesco’s investment doesn’t look like much for a country the size of India, especially in the context of Ikea’s ambitious proposal or H&M’s fashion retail business that is possibly less complex than Tesco’s multi-product multi-brand format. However, let’s keep in mind that Tesco is facing tough trading conditions in Europe, took a global write-down of US$3.5 billion last year including its exit from the US market, and merged its Chinese business with retail giant China Resources Enterprise to become a minority partner. In view of all that and the unpredictability of Indian politics, US$ 110 million looks like a reasonable if not disruptive commitment. It also does somewhat limit the downside risk for Tesco if the environment turns FDI-unfriendly after the general elections.

Whenever Tesco expanded into new markets, it has tried to adopt a localised or partner-led approach. In India, since 2007, Tesco has had an arrangement to provide support to Tata’s food and general merchandise retail business. The intent underlying the partnership was clearly to look at a joint retail business when allowed by regulations and not just at back-end operations. The existing structure has provided Tesco with an opportunity to learn about the Indian market and operating environment first-hand while working closely with Tata’s retail team. Tata, in turn, has drawn upon Tesco considerable expertise of operating retail businesses in both developed and emerging markets. At the very least, the FDI inflow from Tesco will deepen this arrangement further, benefiting both partners further.

But there are the inevitable twists in the tale. While the Tesco proposal was in the works, the new Aam Aadmi Party formed a government in surprise victory in Delhi state and announced that it would not allow foreign owned retail businesses in the state of Delhi. This strikes off one of the most lucrative metropolitan markets from the geographic target list at least in the short term. (The central government has pushed back saying that while retail is a state-subject, the decision to allow FDI by the previous Congress government cannot be reversed at will by the current AAP government, but the debate goes on.) BJP-led and BJP ally-led state governments have also indicated their unwillingness to allow foreign retailers into their markets.

So should we even attempt to forecast what Tesco and Tata could do in this environment? I would rather not pre-empt and second-guess the future plans of business executives who are trying to read the intent of politicians who are focussed on elections 4 months in the future! However, whatever the plans, the retailers must comply with the regulations such as they are now and utilise the opportunities that exist. So it is likely that the following scenario will play out.

Tata and Tesco have said that the proposed joint-venture looks at “building on the existing portfolio of Star Bazaar stores in Maharashtra and Karnataka”. These are both states where Trent has multiple locations, so a certain critical mass is available. Since current government policy requires the investment to be directed at creating fresh capacity, new stores would also be opened in these states, though the expansion plans look modest, with 3-5 new stores every financial year.

But with the 50 percent investment in back-end also being a regulatory requirement, new procurement, processing and logistics infrastructure which could service stores within these states as well as in other states are is likely to be built. Tesco’s wholesale subsidiary currently supplies merchandise to Star Bazaar stores across states – this relationship is likely to continue as some of Tata’s stores are in states that are not within the FDI ambit. The product mix proposed includes vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, dairy products, tea, coffee, liquor, textiles, footwear, furniture, electronics, jewellery and books.

The norms earlier required FDI proposals to ensure that 30 per cent of product sourcing would be domestic, from small-midsized enterprises. However, in August 2013, the government relaxed this requirement to be applied only at the beginning of the joint-venture operations, and that this requirement would not include fruits and vegetables, an area where Tesco has focussed significant energy. So the immediate focus would be on meeting the domestic sourcing requirements in other categories, and creating a viable business model and scale through an appropriate product mix.

The partners are likely to continue working on improving the performance of the existing Star Bazaar stores which are 40,000-80,000 sq ft in size. However, Tata has also launched a new convenience store format, Star Daily sized at about 2,000 sq ft focussed on fresh foods, groceries and essential items. Retailers with foreign investment are now also permitted to open stores in cities with populations under one million from which they had been prohibited previously, so the new small format can provide significant expansion opportunities and more volume for the back-end operations to reach critical mass quicker.

Would there be a change of name on the store fascia? Unlikely, since Tesco has been operating stores under other brands as well in markets outside the UK and a “Tesco” name appearing on the fascia may not significantly change the consumer’s perception of the store. Other than in lifestyle categories or overtly brand-driven products (such as fashion), most Indian consumers focus on utility, quality, local relevance and price as significantly more important purchase drivers than an international name. In fact, a trusted Indian name like Tata carries as much weight or more weight in many categories than an international brand would. So the stores may carry a joint by-line, but the focus is likely to remain on the existing brand names.

And what of several other retailers who are interested in the Indian market? Will they draw inspiration from Tesco and take their plunge into the market, urged on by the outgoing government eager to demonstrate results during its final months?

Wal-Mart, for one, seems to have returned to the table, having set up a new subsidiary, perhaps preparing the ground for a retail launch with another partner. A European retailer, remaining nameless for now, is being mentioned as being the next proposal in the FDI pipeline.

However, it is likely that most will remain in the wait-and-watch mode until the outcome of the national elections is clear. The real issue is not the regulations themselves as much as the unpredictability of the regulatory environment. Policies are being made, turned around, and twisted over in the name of politics, without a clear thought given to the real impact on the country, the economy and the industry of either the original policy formulation or its reversal.

Until that dust settles down, we should expect no dramatic changes in the near term, no sudden rushes into the market. But then, we could be wrong – policy and politics have taken unexpected twists earlier, and could do so again!