Asia’s wealthiest man Mukesh Ambani is definitely readying for a retail blitzkrieg in India, which is said to be the world’s largest free market economy with a consumption base of over a billion people. The only other billion plus consumer market, China, has stringent entry barriers and has been able to keep at bay U.S. retail giants Walmart and Amazon—with both having invested billions in India’s retail consumption story.
On Thursday, Ambani’s oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) announced yet another billion-dollar fund raise for its retail subsidiary Reliance Retail Ventures Limited (RRVL), at a pre-money valuation of $62.4 billion. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is investing approximately $1.3 billion for 2.04% in RRVL. Earlier, PIF had forked out $1.5 billion for a 2.32% stake in Jio Platforms, the digital services subsidiary of RIL.
In fact, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ambani’s Jio Platforms and RRVL have raised an eye popping $20 billion and $5 billion in capital, respectively. There are as many as seven common investors in both entities, a clear indication that the RIL ecosystem is well and truly ready for a retail juggernaut—both online and offline.
“The investors who have put in money into Reliance see it as a multi-category and multi-product play, of which retail is just one part of it. Therefore, Reliance is in a different class altogether,” said Arvind K. Singhal, chairman, Technopak Advisors, a retail consultancy, in an earlier interview to Fortune India.
Besides PIF, the other common investors of Jio Platforms and RRVL include Silver Lake, General Atlantic, KKR, Mubadala, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, and TPG.
“I welcome PIF as a valued partner in Reliance Retail and look forward to their sustained support and guidance as we continue our ambitious journey to transform India’s retail sector for enriching the lives of 1.3 billion Indians and millions of small merchants,” said Ambani in a statement which was shared to the media.
Reliance Retail Limited, a subsidiary of RRVL, operates approximately 12,000 stores across the country, and reported a profit of ₹973 crore on revenues of Rs 41,000 crore in the July to September quarter of the ongoing fiscal. A few month ago, RRVL strengthened its brick-and-mortar operations with the acquisition of the retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing businesses of Kishor Biyani-led Future Group for ₹24,713 crore.
The acquisition gave Reliance Retail access to retail formats such as Big Bazaar, Foodhall, FBB, Easyday, and Central that are spread across 420 cities in India with a network of about 1,800 stores. However, U.S. retail giant Amazon, which had invested in a holding entity of Biyani’s Future Group, contested the RRVL-Future deal in an arbitration court in Singapore, and got a stay on the transaction. RRVL, though, said it intends to complete the transaction without any delay under Indian law.
"We are pleased to be furthering our trusted partnership with Reliance Industries, the leading player in some of India’s most exciting sectors,” said Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of PIF. “This transaction demonstrates PIF’s commitment to investing and partnering for the long-term with innovative businesses around the world that lead and transform their sectors.”