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What does Reliance Retail’s FMCG venture mean for the market?

Isha Ambani, director of Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd, said on August 29 that the company would soon enter the packaged consumer goods segment. Here’s how the move would impact the segment and existing FMCG players.

August 31, 2022 / 07:51 AM IST
With this foray, Reliance Retail will be competing with the likes of FMCG behemoths like Hindustan Unilever, Nestle, and Britannia.

With this foray, Reliance Retail will be competing with the likes of FMCG behemoths like Hindustan Unilever, Nestle, and Britannia.

 
 
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Reliance Retail’s announcement on August 29 that it would enter the packaged consumer goods segment has created buzz in the market.

The retail giant’s entry into the so-called Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector is set to intensify competition as it does in every new industry that its parent, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), enters, experts say.

With the venture, Reliance Retail will be competing with FMCG behemoths like Hindustan Unilever, Nestle and Britannia in an industry valued at over $110 billion.

Even so, the company potentially confronts multiple challenges in its intended venture into FMCG.

“The competition intensifies in every segment that Reliance gets into because of their approach of being aggressive and not just in terms of growth. The company also wants to acquire market share very rapidly. The telecom sector was a prime example of this,” said Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight.

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“However, Reliance’s entry into any consumer-facing business has always been a long play,” he added.

The intended entry of Reliance Retail, the retail arm of RIL, into FMCG was announced by Isha Ambani, director of Reliance Retail Ventures, at RIL’s 45th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on August 29.

“I am excited to announce that this year, we will launch our Fast-Moving Consumer Goods business. The objective of this business is to develop and deliver high-quality, affordable products which solve every Indian's daily needs,” Ambani told shareholders.

Isha Ambani was introduced as the leader of the company’s retail business by Mukesh Ambani, her father and Chairman and MD of RIL, at the AGM.

In his speech, Mukesh Ambani also said that he is hopeful of the retail arm emerging as the largest segment within the group.

(Read: Reliance Retail to become largest segment in RIL family, says Mukesh Ambani)

Private labels

Reliance Retail already has a presence in the FMCG segment in the form of private labels that are sold in the company’s chain stores such as Reliance Smart, Reliance Mart, and its online grocery platform JioMart.

Brands like Good Life, Best Farms, Desi Kitchen, Snac Tac, Yeah!, Safe Lite, Petals, Mothercare and Calcident are some private label FMCG brands that the company sells.

Private labels (including in the fashion and lifestyle segment) contribute 65 percent of the company’s revenue.

According to analysts, the company initially is going to expand its private label offerings and will focus on segments in which it already has a presence.

“The products which it plans to sell range from groceries like pulses and grains, edible oils, flour, dry fruits, spices, pickles, pastes, idli dosa batter, snacks which include biscuits, namkeens and sweets, ready-to-cook meals, ketchup, jams, carbonated drinks, fruit juices, breakfast cereal, oats, muesli, honey, sauces, tea and coffee in the foods space,” said a note by Edelweiss.

In the non-foods space, the company sells products like soaps, shower gels, hand wash, face wash, hair oils, talcum powder, sanitisers, sanitary pads, diapers, toothpaste and toothbrushes, nail enamel, beauty and hair accessories, and daily essentials including deodorants, nail clippers and scissors, the securities firm said.

Edelweiss said it expects Reliance Retail to initially target the commoditised parts of FMCG like pulses and grains, edible oils, flour, dry fruits, spices, pickles, pastes, idli and dosa batter, namkeens, sweets and lower-end detergents.

Potential strategies

Experts indicate that much on the lines of its earlier playbook, Reliance Retail is likely to adopt organic as well as inorganic strategies for growth in the sector.

“Reliance aims to be a dominant player in every segment and, hence, the company, besides organic growth opportunities, is also likely to look out for acquisitions in the space,” said Dutta of Third Eyesight.

Edelweiss also expects Reliance Retail to acquire regional entities and Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) brands and also target unorganised/regional brands in most FMCG segments it enters.

The company, analysts said, will also look at value-play to gain penetration into the categories.

Impact on the competition

According to experts, the move is set to intensify competition in the segment and may have an impact on existing FMCG companies in the near term.

“We don’t expect a big impact on numbers of existing players from a two-three years’ perspective. However, near-term multiples could come under risk for some companies Hindustan Unilever, Britannia, Marico, Adani Wilmar, Godrej Consumer Products, etc. It will not have much impact on Nestle, Colgate, Dabur, ITC,” Edelweiss wrote in its note.

The impact on the industry will depend on the level of aggression Reliance Retail summons in product launches.

Challenges

FMCG is a well-established segment with well-known brands that have a huge distribution network, and cracking the market would be the biggest challenge for Reliance Retail, industry experts suggested.

“It is tough for new players to get shelf space in kirana (grocery stores). Earlier, we have seen some retailers entering the segment but with little success,” Edelweiss said.

“The existing players have decades of loyalty with consumers and relationships with distributors,” it added.

Analysts indicate that even after getting shelf space, new FMCG players have to constantly innovate to stay ahead of the curve.

“A company can offer early-stage incentives, launch offers to retailers to grab the shelf space but then it has to keep reviving that engine constantly, which is not easy,” said Dutta.

Although Reliance Retail has a significant share of modern retail trade through its grocery chains, the company needs to build a multi-tier distribution network, especially in general trade, which commands 80-90 percent of FMCG sales.

Disclosure: MoneyControl is a part of the Network18 group. Network18 is controlled by Independent Media Trust, of which Reliance Industries is the sole beneficiary.
Devika Singh
first published: Aug 30, 2022 06:51 pm
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