One of the world’s richest men, Mukesh Ambani has a gargantuan task ahead. He has to pass on the baton of the large empire that he created in the last two decades and ensure that his children do not falter.
The Indian economy has changed since the time Mukesh came out of his father’s shadow to write his own destiny. Not only has the Indian economy become larger, but there are also challenges coming in from the young first-generation entrepreneurs who are building billion-dollar companies even before they touch the age of 25.
While Mukesh Ambani recently stepped down from the board of Reliance Jio to make way for his son Akash’s leadership, the former has been paying extra attention to his daughter’s retail business for some time to ensure that she maintains the lead over her rivals in the industry.
Mukesh Ambani has been on an acquisition and tie-up spree with foreign brands for the last few years to add to the offerings of Reliance Retail- one of the high-yielding subsidiaries of Reliance Industries- helmed by daughter Isha.
Isha And Reliance Retail
Isha’s active involvement in her father’s company can be dated back to 2014. The 30-year-old MBA graduate from Stanford University is the brand and marketing face of Reliance. Being a fashion enthusiast, Isha kicked off the retail segment’s foray into e-commerce by launching the online fashion retail store AJIO in 2017. Subsequently, the same year, she was promoted as the director of all companies under Reliance Retail Ventures Limited such as Reliance Fresh, Reliance Smart Point, Reliance Digital, Reliance Trends, Trends Footwear, Reliance Brands Limited, Reliance Consumer Brands, Reliance Smart, JioMart, Jio Stores, Project Eve, Reliance Jewels, Hamleys, Reliance Mall and 7-ELeven. Reliance Retail has over 12,000 stores across more than 7,000 cities in the country and registered a profit of $2.6 billion in the March quarter.
Notably, besides having a strong business acumen across the retail business, Isha has been actively involved in handling the deal between Reliance Jio and big tech giants such as Meta and Google in 2020 worth $25 billion. Reliance Jio is the brainchild of Isha and Akash, which was launched in 2016.
Over the past few years, while Isha worked as the director of the company–learning about the nooks and crannies of running the business and handling corporate deals, her father Mukesh Ambani helmed several key partnerships and acquisitions across borders in order to expand the portfolio of Reliance Retail and bringing an array of international brands to India. These brands would be later managed by Isha.
Partnership With International Brands
Reliance Retail recently partnered with the iconic American fashion brand Gap Inc in a long-term franchise agreement. As per the agreement, Reliance Retail has become the official franchise partner of the US-based fashion brand across all outlets in India. The Gap merchandise will be available in India across exclusive brand stores, multi-brand stores and online platforms.
Notably, last week the UK-based Pret a Manger—a popular sandwich and coffee chain joined the list of international brands that Reliance Retail has partnered with. The partnership is touted to be in direct competition with the country’s two other popular food and beverages brands—Tata-owned Starbucks and Café Coffee Day (CCD), which have become quite popular over the years.
Moreover, in order to provide the best customer experience by bringing international brands to India and with an aim to capture the domestic consumer’s market, the company has opted for several strategic partnerships. For instance, Reliance Industries launched Jio World Drive in Mumbai in 2021. Spread across 17.5 acres in Mumbai’s Bandra area, this urban hangout houses brick-and-mortar stores of international fashion brands such as Armani Exchange, Bally, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Ethos, G-Star Raw, Gas, H by Hamleys, Hugo Boss, Kate Spade New York, LensCrafters, Marks and Spencer Lingerie, Michael Kors, Mothercare, Onitsuka Tiger, Paul & Shark, Paul Smith, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Replay, Superdry, The White Crow, Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour, Vero Moda etc.
The stores of international beauty and perfume brands as well such as — Byredo, Clinique, Dior, Jo Malone, Kiehl’s, MAC, and Maison Des Parfums as well as international accessories and eyewear brands such as—Ethos, Montblanc, Muji, Ritu Kumar, Samsonite, Satya Paul, Steve Madden, Sunglass Hut, Tumi, and Vision Express, are also there at Jio World Drive.
The Mumbai-based urban hangout has also captured the presence of international footwear brands such as –-Crocs, Dune, Needledust, Nike and international handbags brand Da Milano. Introducing the western furnishing, Jio World Drive also has West Elm.
Brands such as Hunkemoller, Iconix, Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch, Bottega Veneta Giorgio Armani, Versace, Villeroy & Boch and Ermenegildo Zegna are also included in the list of international partnerships carried out by Reliance Retail.
In India, the company has partnered with brands such as Forest Essentials, Forever New, Fresh Pik, Kama Ayurveda, Manish Malhotra, Mulmul, Netmeds, POP Up, and Raghavendra Rathore.
International Acquisitions Carried Out By Reliance
While partnerships have been a key business strategy of Reliance industries in order to expand its retail portfolio, the conglomerate has also upped its game in international retail business acquisition.
In 2019, the company first stepped into the international market by acquiring the UK-based toy retailer Hamleys. The company later acquired the London-based battery technology firm Faradion in 2021. Moreover, in order to expand his portfolio across the UK—Mukesh Ambani bought the historic British country club Stoke Park for Rs 592 crore last year. The company has also made a binding offer to acquire UK-based Boots-a popular pharmacy retail chain, worth $6.3 billion, along with Apollo Global Management, a US-based investment management firm.
Succession Plan In Order
Notably, experts believe that as Mukesh gears up to take a backseat while handing over the telecom and retail businesses to his children, the Ambani siblings would always have the advantage of seeking guidance from their father, especially while cracking key corporate deals. Notably, the elevation of both Akash and Isha comes at a time when Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail are planning initial public offerings (IPOs) worth $5 billion and $10 billion respectively, by the end of this year.